Ci7 Education: Small Footprint, Big Impact

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The “Advanced Bookselling & Special Topics: Small Footprint, Big Impact” education session at the American Booksellers Association’s seventh annual Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, featured panelists who shared tips on best practices for making the most out of their small physical spaces.

Booksellers can watch a full video of the session on ABA’s Education Resources page (a BookWeb username and password are required; e-mail info@bookweb.org for login credentials).

The June 27 session featured panelists from bookstores under 1,000 square feet who shared what they do to maximize their selling space and host events without having to knock down walls. Panelists included Lea Bickerton, owner of The Tiny Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (300 square feet), who served as moderator; Bel McNeill, owner of Bel and Bunna’s Books in Lafayette, California (825 square feet); Jennifer Green, owner of Green Bean Books in Portland, Oregon (600 square feet); and Marlene England, owner of Curious Iguana in Frederick, Maryland (1,000 square feet).

Attendees learned about the logistics of hosting an in-store event; crowd management in a small space; inventory management in a small stockroom; and keeping it fresh with inventive displays. Below are some of the tips panelists shared during the session:

Ideas to Keep in Mind

  • Let your personality shine through — your small space is your personality and comes from you and the community you serve
  • Try to remember your customers and their names
  • Maximize your outdoor spaces if you have them (once you check the legality, do events in the parking lot or on a porch/deck, hang posters on surrounding fences, etc.)
  • Ticket events for big authors
  • Partner with local schools to use the auditorium as a venue
  • Have shelves on wheels for indoor author events

Inventory Management Tips

  • Keep both curation and quantity front of mind
  • If the book won’t move, move the book (to another shelf/display)!
  • Be diligent about returning books if they are not selling (you may want to do returns a couple times a month)
  • Use the notes feature in Edelweiss to remind yourself of reasons for number of copies you’re ordering
  • “We only have room to sell good books”
  • Check out resources on Paz & Associates’ website, including this "Small is Smart" article

Creating Eye-Catching Displays

  • Make the most of the space you have by focusing not only on displays, but general placement
  • Create a section of shorter or small-size books labeled, for example, “Quick and Quirky Reads”
  • Make flashy shelf-talkers for your spine-out books (use Edelweiss for descriptions)
  • Use publishers’ countertop displays 

Benefits of Having a Small Store

  • Inventory costs are cheaper
  • It’s easier to know/read/locate read every book on your shelves
  • Great sightlines means no place for employees to hide. When all sightlines are visible, customer experience must be your top priority
  • People get to know and trust you because you are always there
  • You get to know the customers and get closer to your own community
  • You can feel freer to have your store reflect your personality