Surviving Tough Times: Booksellers' Best Practices

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In November 2008, as the economic downturn started to spread across the retail landscape, American Booksellers Association staff attempted to contact every member bookstore. This effort was undertaken to offer ABA's help in any way possible and to assess how members were doing. As they provided status reports, however, booksellers also offered valuable insights into their unique ways of countering declining sales. Many of their tips for staying afloat in challenging economic times, which were presented at the Winter Institute session "Surviving Tough Times: Best Practices From Booksellers" are now available to all ABA members in BookWeb's Curriculum Guide.

"Surviving Tough Times: Best Practices" is a collection of dozens of concise tips covering a range of topics from controlling inventory and payroll to marketing and outside sales. The Controlling Expenses category, for example, is divided into several subcategories including Inventory Management, Compensation, and Occupancy. A few suggestions include using Above the Treeline for pulling returns (from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina); devoting more shelf space to family games, which withstand recessions more successfully than individual gifts (Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas); and shifting political titles to the rear of store and green/natural living to front of store to create a "happy vibe" (Malaprop's Bookstore, Asheville, North Carolina).

Booksellers also shared past successes with events in the "Incentives to Shop" section, including booking children's birthday parties (Ladels Children's Book Boutique, Detroit, Michigan); holding a "Grandparent's Night" focusing on kids' books (Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City, Iowa); and hosting a "Neighborhood Night" where business people and residents of the store's neighborhood are invited for a sale (Sam Weller's Books, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Other topics include suggestions for used books and remainders, direct mail, discounts and sales, IndieBound and Shop Local efforts, and holiday catalogs.

For additional ideas, check out past articles in BTW's Tough Times series.