Consignment Expands at Northshire Bookstore

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"What we are after is working with vendors that want to be real partners in selling quality products to our customers," said Northshire Bookstore owner Chris Morrow. That's why Northshire has just entered into its second consignment partnership, this one with publisher Chelsea Green.

"They are innovative and unafraid of change," Morrow said, explaining why his Manchester Center, Vermont, store chose to work with Chelsea Green. "They are small enough to make decisions quickly and to implement them well. They are Vermonters. They publish great books."

Northshire now carries all non-remainder Chelsea Green books on consignment, ordering directly from the publisher on a nonreturnable basis. The books are prominently displayed in a special section, and the two companies will be collaborating on multiple-author events. The goal, Morrow said, is two-fold: financial and operational waste will be minimized, and both the publisher and the bookstore will sell more books. "Rather than returning Chelsea Green books to the publisher, we will do shared markdowns and special sales of books right on the shelves," Morrow said.

The bookstore has been managing consignment sales since last June, when it began a partnership with children's clothing company Zutano, another Vermont neighbor. "We built a 'store within a store' in our kids section," Morrow said. "They supply the merchandise on consignment; we staff it and generate traffic. It is a creative solution that spreads risk and invests in making relationships with our -- and their -- customers."

Northshire has raised the possibility of consignment relationships with other publishers, but Chelsea Green was the first to share Morrow's enthusiasm. Of the other publishers he approached, one was a non-U.S. company concerned about international accounting, he said, and the other "was slightly open but hesitant because [consignment] is new, and would entail change and figuring out some new systems."

Morrow will be discussing Northshire's consignment programs next month at ABA's Day of Education, sponsored by Ingram, at BookExpo America. In the meantime, he offered BTW a taste of the advice he'll share with other stores looking to set up consignment partnerships: "Go for it. It is a win-win. It takes some adjustment of internal accounting and inventory systems, but it is worth it." --Sarah Rettger