Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sections, Departments, Palaces

One of the more common questions I'm asked by booksellers who are thinking of starting to buy bargain is where to put it. They are often concerned with displacing other parts of their inventory that are performing well for them. My first impulse is simply to say that those will still sell, now from another area of your bookstore, if you do move them, but it is better to look at the ways other booksellers handle bargain successfully and decide what works best for you.

1. Everywhere

Some of the most successful booksellers put all bargain formats everywhere in their bookstores. This means that whether they sell new, used, or a combination, the same title, sometimes the same ISBN, will be represented on the same shelf as frontlist, remainder, trade paperback, mass market paperback, hardcover, hurt, overstock, and reprint. The category sections might contain large numbers of all of the above. Tables may contain stacks of bargain books along with stacks of the best selling frontlist titles and overstocks of used books. Windows and endcaps will be face-out displays of anything that looks good and sells well, whatever the source. This approach seems natural with art, cooking, gardening, and other coffee table categories, but less intuitive for categories like poetry, fiction, biography, or history. From what I've seen in practice, it works for all categories and in combination with all other approaches.

2. Tables

For booksellers who want to segregate bargain from the rest of their inventory, tables are a good way to display. The best incorporate shelves all around the underside with one set of shelves on rollers which slide out to reveal storage underneath. A good table can be a department in itself. Stacks on top and short quantities and singles on the shelves below can display a lot of titles in a tight space. Two or three tables in one area of the bookstore can produce a lot of sales and are easy for one buyer to merchandise and keep an eye on.

3. A room or, in larger bookstores, a floor or area

This is not my favorite because it tells your customers you value this area differently than other areas and makes it easy to avoid. Impulse buys happen less frequently among customers who don't like the "bargain basement" vibe, and having less or no bargain mixed in with the rest of your stock means never knowing if you are missing some sales where the customers are going to buy bargain and not the other editions. However, this works amazingly well for some of my most successful customers, so who am I to argue? It works best if it is worked right. A bargain department must be managed and merchandised with the same attention to detail, customer service, and display as the other sections of your bookstore.

4. Carts

If you have very limited space and want to segregate your bargain, try carts. They can be shelved, as are library carts, or flat tops. Face-outs will be limited, but they work great for singles, 2s and 3s. The nice thing about carts is that you can move them around the store or out of the way for events, and they do double duty outside during sidewalk sales or at offsite sales. Signage is important everywhere, but be particularly obvious in your cart signage as carts tend to look more like work tools and less like displays.

5. All of the Above

Mix your bargain books into your front and backlist sections, stack it on a couple of tables near the front of your bookstore, put it on carts in open areas and wheel those outside during good weather or toward the back during events, and create a bargain book room or section. Your customers will love it.


Upcoming trade shows for bargain book buyers: