As a writer for a blog that reviews independent bookstores, I’ve visited quite a few and taken note of some of the unusual services that the stores offer their customers. Here’s a review of what I’ve found in the last year, maybe something will strike your fancy as a fun addition to your store.
Independent bookstores, new and used, assist their customers by recommending books with shelf-talkers and with a staff recommendation section. But that is only the start for Bookshop Santa Cruz. The store draws in the community by holding a drawing each month to pick the “community member” who chooses the books to fill one shelf on the recommendation bookcase. Additionally, Bookshop Santa Cruz asks a local expert to recommend books from her field. The month I was there, the conductor of the local music festival highlighted several books on classical music. A previous month featured a landscaper who stacked the table with gardening books. The store also notes with a shelf-talker the most popular book in each genre. By the time I left Bookshop Santa Cruz, I gained a sense of what Santa Cruz likes to read.
Book of the Month Clubs
To encourage automatic repeat buying, several bookstores provide book-of-the-month clubs. Some are fairly general with the stores offering to tailor the shipments to the customer’s preferences or to a child’s age. Other clubs are specific, either the topic of the bookstore (such as murder mysteries from a mystery bookstore), or autographed books from an author visit, or a first edition from a debut author.
Members of book groups are repeat readers and many stores sponsor a variety of book groups, but others work to support outside groups. Warwick’s in La Jolla hosts an annual night for book groups to listen to recommendations from several staff members. Bookshop Santa Cruz offers a similar evening quarterly and arranges for either the staff or people in the book industry to speak.
I noticed that some stores tap into their local resources to sponsor specialized book groups. Duttons of Brentwood was owned by a music professor, so he arranged a classic music book group that attracted musicians and aficionados alike. In Denver, Tattered Cover hosts the Rocky Mountain Land Series that focuses on environmental issues. The Book Works in Del Mar is located near a medical research complex, so it holds a Mind-Brain series that asks members of the medical community to lead and participate in.
Several of the larger independent stores include charitable giving programs. Almost all of the recipients are local agencies, but the methods were different. The Elliot Bay Book Company chooses a charity (these rotate over time), then picks a bookshelf of books the purchase of which will trigger a donation. Tattered Cover encourages participation in its membership program by giving 1% of the member’s purchases to a charity chosen by the member. Warwick’s gives 1% of its monthly sales to alternating charities.
Teachers and Schools
Both Warwick’s and Tattered Cover host school activities. Warwick’s invites both the parents and the teachers to an annual school evening. It also notifies the schools when a children’s author is reading and offers the parents a special discount for the autographed book. Tattered Cover invites teachers to an annual Educator’s Night to pamper them and share recommendations for books.
Hopefully, some of these activities spark an idea for a special activity in your store. They are a way to encourage repeat business and build your bookstore community.
Do you have any unique programs in your store? Please share them!
Co-Founder, Bookstore People