UMBA Spring Meeting Focuses on ABACUS, LMI, and Gift Cards

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On Saturday, March 8, approximately 25 people braved a snowstorm and bitter cold temperatures to attend an ABA Booksellers Forum, held in conjunction with the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association (UMBA) Spring Meeting, in Minneapolis. The UMBA Spring Meeting ran from March 8 - March 9 and was held at UMBA's offices.

According to a number of attendees, the ABACUS survey, the Local Marketing Intelligence (LMI) program, and ABA's investigation into developing an electronic gift card program were the hot topics of the day. Representing ABA at the forum was ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz.

"I felt that people who attended the Booksellers Forum were very enthusiastic," said Susan Walker, UMBA's executive director. "Everyone was very interested in what Avin had to say."

UMBA's Spring Meeting started off with the Booksellers Forum, and the ABACUS study dominated the early portion of the two-hour forum, noted Joci Tilsen, owner of The Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minnesota. "That was great," she told BTW. "Avin talked about the importance of ABACUS, and there were comments about how easy it is to use."

Said UMBA president Sue Griepentrog, buyer and manager for Little Read Book in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, "It was a very good discussion on reporting to ABACUS. Avin explained the report, and it made sense. Those who didn't report said they would be reporting [in the future].... I'm definitely going to do the ABACUS reporting. I get the feeling that it is going to be beneficial to bookstores."

ABA's research into developing a gift card program drew much interest from booksellers in attendance, according to Scott Yanke, owner of Scott's Books in Delano, Minnesota. Domnitz discussed some of the costs and challenges, as well as the benefits of a gift card program, Yanke noted.

"There was some disappointment regarding the difficulties," said Valley Bookseller's Tilson. "Avin said there are questions regarding the cost, the return, and increased sales. Once Avin answered those questions, people wanted it done -- sooner rather than later."

"There was a consensus that [an electronic gift card program] was the way to go," Griepentrog said. "The nuts and bolts have to be taken care of."

Yanke stressed that he wanted to be able to put his store's logo on a gift card, as he does on gift certificates. "If someone buys a gift card here and gives it as a gift, I want them to know where the card came from -- so they know that, though the card can be used at any [Book Sense] store, it originated at my store. Avin said it was something to be considered."

Tilson told BTW that there was an "incredible discussion" regarding ABA's LMI program, which ABA provides to member bookstores for a fee. LMI involves proven marketing research techniques and professional marketing analysis to enable bookstores to be more targeted and efficient with their marketing programs. Finding out about LMI "met my needs," she said.

Following the ABA Booksellers Forum, most of the attendees stayed for the "Roundtable Discussion on Sidelines." UMBA's Spring Meeting was scheduled to coincide with UMAGA/Minneapolis Gift Mart, said UMBA's Walker, so many of the attendees had been browsing gifts at the gift show prior to attending the meeting.

Griepentrog brought a number of sidelines catalogs to the discussion, Yanke said. "She explained what worked for [her store]," he said.

"It was an informal discussion, and everybody was able to come up with good ideas and share them," Griepentrog said. "A lot of people went to the UMAGA show."

The UMBA Spring Meeting concluded on Sunday morning with a "Co-op Management Demystified Workshop (& Continental Breakfast)" seminar, which was led by co-op consultant Tracy Adams. "She talked about building co-op into your marketing plans ... [and] about the complexities of the administrative process," said Walker. "She said it can help you to pay someone to do it for you, maybe part-time."

Overall, Griepentrog was very pleased with UMBA's Spring Meeting. "I felt it was very instructive, and I'm so glad I went," she said. "I really brought home a lot of information." -- David Grogan