Considering a community bookshop

While scheming & plotting my way to bookstore ownership, I’ve considered a good many ideas — some brilliant & others brilliantly bizarre.  One that has managed to trap my elusive attention is that of running a community bookshop.  By doing this, I’ll be asking my neighbours to take an active interest in the success of my store.  For, the better I do, the larger the disposable income they will make.

If I do incorporate this particular aspect into my business model, I’ll be able to provide consignment customers with a deidcated shelf (or shelves) on which they can display their goods.  In return for this privilege, they’ll be charged a small rental fee — either an agreed upon flat rate, or a certain percentage of the selling price of each book.

As I prefer to keep things as simple as possible, I’m leaning towards asking for a monthly fee — something that will be fair to all involved.  Of course, with this particular plan of action, I’d potentially be missing out on some considerable income.  But, since it’s my intention to use the community shelves as more of a tool for marketing, rather than just a revenue-generating one, I’m willing to make only a modest profit from them.

With that  said, there are a few details that I’ve yet to figure out.  And, as I’m more of an idea person, I could use some help crossing my Ts, dotting my Is & adding the right amount of exclamation points.

Firstly, I need to determine what percentage of the store should be committed to community shelving space.  This is going to be a rather small shop — no less than 300 sq. feet, but no more than 400 sq. feet — so I want to keep everything balanced.  My thing is that I’ll allocate far too much space, or not nearly enough — I rarely walk the middle ground when it comes to most aspects of life.

Secondly, I need to create a certain amount of exclusivity as far as it concerns those who rent a shelf.  Attracting serious sellers would be the ideal here, as they would actually put effort into bringing in worthwhile books.  Would the simple existence of such a space be enough to entice them, or would some additional aggressive marketing be required?

Lastly, I need to consider pricing.  The amount should be high enough to make it worthwhile for me to set aside the shelf space, but low enough to keep people’s interest.  I also have to remember that I’ll most likely be setting up shop in a small city/large town, so setting a price that’s palpable to the locals would be advantageous.

Insights are welcome — especially if you’ve had any experience in running a community bookshop, or know someone who has.  I’ve got roughly less than three years to put together a sound business plan, so take your time in answering.

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Comment (3)

    Sean
    December 20, 2010 - 3:04 pm

    There is a great place in Denver called the Denver Book Mall on Broadway street. It’s a dealer cooperative that has many dealers under one roof. It’s a great idea for small dealers to come together to rent a large space that a single store owner couldn’t.

      Brian Green
      December 20, 2010 - 3:47 pm

      That is an epic idea. Most of the cooperatives that I know of up here (Canada) are mostly food or natural resources-related. Implanting that kind of structure into the retailing world could have a tremendous positive impact on small businesses.

      Thanks for the reply — very inspiring.

    Eugene
    December 22, 2010 - 10:53 am

    Lets take 400 square feet (assuming this is the sales floor – stock room etc. not counted. You want to take home $50,000 (insert your own goal number here) and after all your expenses you think that you will see 20 cents on the dollar in your pocket(again insert your own margin analysis here). So your shop will have to generate $250,000 in gross sales to get you your 50K. So that 250K/400sqft or $625 per square feet in revenue. So lets take a “community bookcase” that is three feet wide and also needs 4 feet of depth (so that you can stand in front of it) or 12 square feet. Round this up to 14.4 square feet to absorb waste space like counter & the area right inside the door etc. and that bookcase must make you 14.4*625 = $9000 per year. So rent it for that or fill it with books that will sell it for that. Of course you can have space that is pulling less weight than average but watch out and obviously your goal income and margin assumptions will move these number around a lot but the message is clear in a small shop space is precious!

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