New Voices, New Rooms: Income Beyond Selling Books
Lisa Swayze, general manager and buyer for Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, N.Y's community-owned independent bookstore, opened the discussion of "Income Beyond Selling Books" at New Voices, New Rooms, the NAIBA/SIBA joint virtual conference, by noting a stat from the ABA's Abacus survey: 20% of bookstore income is generated by sidelines. Blue Willow's Valerie Koehler confirmed: 20% of income at her Houston, Tex., store has come from categories other than books for 15 years.
Most stores carry sidelines such as stationery, journals, greeting cards and games. But consider other income streams, like renting out board games--$10 for 10 days--as owner Candice Huber does at Tubby & Coo's in New Orleans, La., or simply enabling tips on your Square checkout.
Julia Davis, owner of the Book Worm Bookstore in Powder Springs, Ga., stages a "live" game of Candyland, converting her store's floor into the board game, and for every $5 they spend, customers advance on the board. Davis keeps a copy of the game behind the counter so folks can keep track of where they left off and see where their competitors are. The game has generated "lots of repeat customers" and social media activity.
Other ideas: display a copy of Danny Caine's How to Resist Amazon and Why next to an "Amazon swear jar"; Evan Schwartz of Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park, Pa., donates the jar's proceeds to BINC. How about a gumball machine: 25¢ for a book recommendation (from Julia Davis at the Book Worm). Or buy a treat for the bookstore cats, suggested Dorothy Pittman at Horton's Books & Gifts, Carollton, Ga. (Linda-Marie Barrett, SIBA executive director, piped in, "Feed a bookseller.")
Sally Sue Lavigne at the Storybook Shoppe in Bluffton, S.C., offers a book subscription service with home delivery and nationwide shipping. Koehler said Blue Willow began a similar service with a baby "Celebration" subscription box, and that now goes up to book lovers four years old.
B2B partnerships generally continue to be fruitful: pet shops; bookstore crawls (with a passport of all participating stores and a prize and party at the end); storytime with a firefighter who brings a team and a truck; and artists and craftspeople setting up tables to sell in-store. Pop-ups are popular: cafés, beer on tap, kid entrepreneurs' lemonade stands and Girl Scout cookies (the latter two not for a percentage of sales but rather for the foot traffic they generate). And Davis also mentioned food trucks as partners, in front or parked in the lot, all of which generate crowds. --Jennifer M. Brown