a guest post by Ed Dugan from I Need to Cook (if you love food, and who doesn’t, check out his site – pretty sweet.)
All of us have read about that wonderful little bookstore on a little used side street where
literary masterpieces can be found. In fact there was such a bookstore in my hometown of
Philadelphia called Leary’s. I don’t know if it’s still in business but I do know a friend of mine
picked up a first edition Dickens there.
Today, however, choosing a location for a bookstore is essential to its staying power. My wife
has owned 5 very successful bookstores and the locations were as follows: A main highway in
a busy shopping center in Jupiter, Florida, one caddy-corner from a campus of a large State
University, one in a busy flea market on the Emerald Coast of Florida, another in a flea market
in central Florida that, during the season has up to 20,000 visitor a day and finally the one we
own now in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on the main highway through town and in the busiest
shopping center in town. Mountain Home has been chosen as one of the top ten retirement
communities in the US.
Still, with all those incredible locations, years after we opened people would come in and ask
us how long we were in business and, without fail, had passed by the store dozens of time and
never noticed. So, where you locate your store is of vital importance and you should give it a lot
of thought. One good reason for doing so is that most of your business will eventually come by
word of mouth, customers telling their friends about you. If they have to draw a map to your
store you’re in trouble.
Most people would think that advertising might put them on the short road to a good business
and that would take the place of a good location – not so. Other than initial advertising, a
ribbon cutting by the Chamber of Commerce or a new business article in the local paper, we
never had much luck with either continuing newspaper advertising or radio ads.
Once you choose a busy location pay a lot of attention to signage. Your sign is the way you say
hello to potential customers. Obviously, if you are off the beaten path fewer people will see
your sign. And don’t try to get cute with the sign. BOOKS, in the biggest letters your sign can
accommodate is the way to go. Also, don’t clutter up your windows with a lot a small signs, just
say BOOKS BUY AND SELL and they will come.
When choosing a location for your store try to become neighbors with a very busy restaurant, a
movie theatre, anything that will increase the traffic in the vicinity of your store. In our current
store we did very well until a new, and beautiful Chinese restaurant opened up in the same
shopping strip. A month later our business had doubled!
From our experience, it is well worth the effort to get the best location you can afford and,
even if you have to pay a little more than you had budgeted, a good location is well worth it.