Tomorrow begins the second month of Circle City Books’ existence. That’s the day on which I change the coding that I assign to every book when I price it. Until now, I’ve coded all my books “CC1” indicating that the book went on the shelf during the store’s first month. Starting tomorrow, and lasting for another month, the coding will be “CC2.” At some point I suppose, books that have been on the shelf too long will be sentenced to some kind of punishment: the bargain bin, execution, maybe a pep talk. In any case, the end of my first month finds the store still in business, and doing better than I expected. (I admit to low expectations.)
The time change has revealed to me a heretofore unknown problem. When the sun sets at 5:00 p.m., it means that the last hour and a half of business passes with my store cloaked in darkness. When I first opened it was light until closing time. But I have no neon light; no flashing sign; no spotlight illuminating my storefront. I do have lights in the window, but even with those on, it is surprising how dark the store looks from the street. People driving by wouldn’t know I am open. So this is one of the things that I overlooked. Sometime soon I’ll have to correct that.
Also surprising is what I’ve noticed regarding the store’s hours. I open at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. I stay open until 7 p.m. every night but Sunday, when I close at 5 p.m. Several times, as many as five over the course of my first four weeks, I’ve arrived with people waiting for the store to open, and several other times I’ve opened the store early because customers arrived while I was getting ready. On the other hand, it’s unusual for me to have many customers after six o’clock. This doesn’t make sense to me; most people work between 9 and 5, so the hours between 5 and 7 should be better for shoppers than any time during the work day. Still, I have to bend to the actual, rather than the theoretical. I may decide to adjust the store’s hours if, after another month or two, these trends persist.
Perhaps more important than anything, my first month has told me a lot about the kinds of books my customers are interested in. One strong indication is that I do not have a clientele that is interested in romance novels or, at least, those readers haven’t found me yet. I have three or four thousand romances, but I doubt I’ve sold more than 10 books of that type in total. The sweet spot for this store is quality literature, both contemporary and classic. I can’t keep up with the demand for Hilary Mantel, David Eggers, Michael Chabon, Cormac McCarthy and Wendell Berry. I’ve sold all the Alan Furst and Henning Mankell books that I’ve found, and I sold three copies of “Life of Pi” just this weekend. History is in demand, especially David McCullough. I’ve sold lots of civil war books, religion and science. Many people come in for kids books, but I’ve not sold many from the young adult section.
One month probably doesn’t mean much, but the trends I see already match the high level of education that prevails in this town which is such a close neighbor of the University of North Carolina.