Why Book Sense Just Makes Sense for Independents

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By Maret Orliss, Vroman’s Bookstore

Vroman’s has always been a big supporter of the Book Sense program. Through BookSense.com, the gift certificate program, and the Book Sense 76 list, Book Sense is an effective marketing program and a terrific way of promoting that independent bookstores, while unique, also share a common connection.

Recently, there was a unanimous decision by Vroman’s management to support Book Sense in new ways in an effort to do more to promote our independence and Book Sense within our store.

Occupying over 50,000 square feet of book retail amongst three locations in Pasadena, Vroman’s is proud to be the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California, and we want our customers to be able to easily identify us as an independent. For that reason, we’ve supported Book Sense heavily since its inception, including Book Sense displays and a stenciled front window informing customers that Book Sense Gift Certificates are available here. Book Sense helps us maintain customer loyalty and, at the same time, hold onto our unique identity.

Due to our success with the program, we are taking our Book Sense support to a new level in a number of ways.

Joining the BookSense.com Community

Currently, we are working with BookSense.com to change our Web site over to a Book Sense site. We believe this change will offer us a number of marketing advantages, among them:

  • We will benefit from BookSense.com purchases. Joining the BookSense.com team will open us up to new customers and better online sales.
  • Being a BookSense.com store will lighten our workload. Trying to keep our Web site up-to-date took a lot of work. Now, a wealth of national content will be provided by BookSense.com, which really lightens our workload and, at the same time, improves our site. We will concentrate on updating our local content, including event and book reviews.

76 Discounts

Rather than use the Los Angeles Times or New York Times bestseller lists to promote books through either displays or discounts, we have used a store bestseller list, and have discounted those titles 30 percent. Recently, we decided to discontinue this bestseller list, and, instead, to discount all current 76-list titles by 20 percent.

Why? Prior to this decision, we already had prominent display areas for the Book Sense 76 titles. We like to promote that 76-list titles are different from what one usually finds on a bestseller list. As they are chosen through multiple bookseller recommendations, we can be confident that the customer is getting a quality title.

And, most importantly, as the display areas that feature the 76 list are in the front of both our main branch and our Hastings Ranch location, they have a higher visibility and are browsed more by customers than the bestseller displays. For instance, at the Pasadena store, when you walk in the store and pass the register, directly to your left there is a wall display of all 76 of the titles with signage and fliers.

We believe that showcasing the 76 is a significant way to promote Book Sense, which continues to establish us as an independent. We think it’s important that we offer discounts on books you don’t see everywhere else, and on titles that the staff can be happy to hand sell.

Book Sense Training Session for Employees

In order to reap the most out of the Book Sense marketing program, we needed to make sure the entire staff was "Book Sense smart." Due to all our recent changes -- the new Web site and the 76 discounting program -- we recently implemented an half-hour "Book Sense Training Session" for our staff, to ensure they had a clear understanding of the Book Sense program as a whole. After all, if Book Sense is to work at Vroman’s, it’s imperative that our customers receive knowledgeable answers about the program from our sales staff.

In the session, I begin by providing the staff with a synopsis of the Book Sense program and its marketing goals. Then, I go over the different aspects of the program, including Book Sense gift certificates, BookSense.com, and the Book Sense 76. We are initially providing the sessions at five different times during the month so that staff can pick a convenient time. After our current staff is trained, we will hold training sessions once a month for new employees hired after these initial sessions conclude. We’ve also created a Book Sense training manual that staff members keep after the sessions to use as a reference.

Through these initiatives, we hope to get the most from the Book Sense program, an effective marketing tool with national recognition. We want to take advantage of that for Vroman’s, but we also want to be of assistance in making Book Sense successful. If Book Sense can help make people aware of us as both an independent and a success story, we’re happy to be a part of it.

Maret Orliss is Special Projects Manager for Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California.