A Year-End Letter From ABA’s CEO

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Hi, Everyone —

Happy Holidays!

I am pleased to report that, in the past month, overall in-store and online sales for independent bookstores have been showing steady increases over 2010. I hope you’ve seen that in your store. There has also been considerable press coverage about a renaissance amongst independent bookstores all across the country. For the first time in a long time, we’re running with some wind at our backs — though I know that continued economic uncertainty coupled with the fact that some number of our best customers are reading more books digitally can give us pause about the future. I assure you that all of us at ABA are working hard to ensure a stronger and more profitable retail environment.

I had the privilege of seeing a great bookstore operating at full throttle this past week. I’m just back in the office after having the opportunity to work a few days at Washington, D.C.’s Politics & Prose, and I’m very grateful to new owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, owner emeritus Barbara Meade, and their extraordinarily hardworking staff for the opportunity to join them as a pinch hitter on an all-star team.

The store was packed and books were flying off the shelves, and I was thrilled to be able to hand-sell some of my 2011 favorites, including The Art of Fielding and In the Garden of Beasts. Most importantly, being in the store gave me a unique opportunity to witness in person how knowledgeable booksellers put the right book in customers’ hands while providing the highest level of customer service.

While there are still a few shopping days before the 25th, I think it’s also important to remember that the season’s business opportunities don’t end in December. As we’ve learned over the past several years, gift cards fuel a lot of purchases in January, but there’s a much more recent factor in play, too.

If all the projections prove accurate, millions of e-readers and tablets will be received this year as gifts. In the days following the holidays, it will be critically important to make clear to your customers that they can buy digital content from a locally owned, independent bookstore. It’s a purchase that is very customer-friendly, and, in the majority of instances, the e-book’s price will be the same from all retailers.

We know the primary business in indie stores will remain the selling of print books, and that your customers will continue to think of your store as the place to go for title recommendations, a fun place to shop, and for interesting and compelling events. But it’s very likely that most of your customers will not realize that your e-book selection and pricing almost always match that of competing retailers. Unfortunately, many indie stores haven’t yet taken the full opportunity to tell customers that they can purchase from them online — and that those purchases can include e-books.

In addition to sharing your store’s URL on receipts, bags, in-store signage, etc., I urge you to use ABA’s editable marketing materials — available in the Booksellers DIY on BookWeb.org — to communicate the message that once your customers unwrap their new e-reader or tablet they can buy their e-book content from you.

You can support this marketing effort by showcasing your intriguing staff picks on your website — and perhaps in the store with shelf-takers including QR codes. (Here’s more information from Bookselling This Week on how your colleagues are using “quick response” codes in their stores. And to help in title selection, an update on e-book promotions from ABA publisher partners can be found at IndieCommerce.com.)

By all indications, it’s going to be a very solid finish to a challenging year. I know that strong sales are the result of a ton of hard work and creative bookselling by stores all across the country. The resilience demonstrated every day by indie booksellers is truly remarkable, and all of us at ABA consider it the highest privilege and honor to be working on your behalf.

Warm regards, Happy Holidays, and, best wishes for the New Year!

Oren J. Teicher, CEO
American Booksellers Association

P.S. Given the strength of sales for ABA members stores and the attention that our channel has received, it’s vitally important to help to keep that momentum going. Please remember to report your sales to the National Indie Bestseller List this week!  This, of all weeks, is the time to trumpet your success and provide further proof that Indie stores remain an important and vital component of any community.  We need to hear from you!