From time to time we get questions from our readers. Here’s a good one that comes up from time to time. We’d love to hear from some of you, especially sellers that have multiple locations and therefore perspective from different angles.

Which is more important when choosing a store location? Visibility or price?

I am looking at two possible locations. Both are in town a couple of miles apart. They are similar in square footage but the first one has a lot more backroom storage area available. The first one is an end unit of a shopping center and can’t be seen from the road, although people entering the shopping center from a side road will see it easily when they enter the shopping center. The rent is very cheap.

The other one has high traffic and good visibility from the road, but is more than twice the rent of the first property.

I’d like to get opinions from bookstore owners who might have faced this dilemma themselves and find out what they’d recommend based on their experiences.

Thanks,

Greg Easterling

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4 thoughts on “Main Street or Cheap Street for your new bookshop?”

  1. I have a high visibility/high rent store on a main street. I opened it three years ago. At the same time two friends went for cheaper options off the beaten track. Their rent was less than half mine. In the past six months both of them have had days where they have not sold a single book. The quietest day I’ve ever had is maybe selling 20 books. Both my friends have good shops. Probably not as well set up as mine but if they were both in the same position as mine I have no doubt they would do much better business. If you can afford the higher rent to begin with then I really think it’s almost always best to go with the better position/higher rent option. It’s higher rent for a reason. A place might be half the rent but only get a quarter of the passing trade or much less! Maybe study the walk by trade of both places.

    The type of bookshop makes a difference. Is the sort of place that relies on walk by trade? Or maybe it’s a specialist place like a bookshop that just does cooking books and a lot of online trade.

    I think though that in general it is a major mistake by a lot of shop owners to go for lower walk by/cheaper rent options because they are afraid of the overheads. You should be much more afraid of less walk by if you do go cheap!

    Also shopping centres can be risky. What if the shopping centre’s popularity goes downhill? The walk by traffic could radically change…

    There are lots’ of variables to consider.

  2. I have to agree with Damien – Location!! Picking the right spot can absolutely make or break your business. I know this from hard experience.

    When I opened my store 14 years ago, I opted for the least expensive place – I assumed that book lovers would seek me out. Yea, not so much.

    My current location is on a major highway, something over 10,000 cars a day drive past me to head to the city. Yes, its more expensive. But – I more then make up for the expense of the rent in much higher sales, and much lower advertising expense! Another perk is that because I’m in a better location – the businesses around me help generate more customers for me.

    Be brave – be smart – pick a spot that will give you the most bang for your buck!

  3. The ‘cheap street’ location we are considering is located in a LARGE busy shopping plaza, but it’s on the side and hidden from the main entrance. (They built another building in the parking lot that hides the spot we’re looking at). HOWEVER….there is a SIDE entrance that a lot of people use (4 cars per minute come by this entrance) and you have to pass directly by our potential spot. Does this seem to cheap? The other location is very expensive, in a very small, but hoppping center, on a major road. Honestly, more cars actually come into the shopping plaza on the cheaper spot, but it is by definition, pretty hidden from the main road….but not the side road. We just don’t know what to do. The less expensive location also has better windows and a LOT more storage. It isn’t all bad. We aren’t in a large town, medium size, no bookstores within 25 minutes in any direction. There are several smaller towns that surround ours. We’d be the only bookstore for miles. No competition. What do we do? We plan on opening with 15,000 books and then trade for the rest to grow. Both locations have usuable retail space of about 2000 s.f. We’re wanting to add free wi-fi and some seating. ALL OF YOUR OPINIONS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED AND WELCOME.

  4. I definitely agree with Judy and Damien. Remember the adage Location, location, location? It is certainly true. We only moved our used paperback exchange across the street, but are doing better gross than when we had two stores! We have gotten lots of customers just by their walking by our store to our neighbors. However, now we get lots of customers from searching the internet too. It used to be our competition, but now it’s a great help. We have a very small website, but I’ve put the word out as many places as I can find. Last year we had over 2100 visits and 870 to date. Another thing to keep in mind is a neat, clean store. Lots of our customers say that our store doesn’t look like a used bookstore.
    Good Luck!

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