As readers are probably aware books are comparatively more expensive in Australia then say in the US or Canada. So from a buyers perspective the prospect of paying $32.95 for a new trade paperback should make a second hand copy an attractive option. However the discount chainstores offer many bestsellers and new releases for 35% off retail -the same discount many of us independent book sellers get from Australian publishers and distributors. The same buyer also has the option to purchase new books from overseas and with the Australian dollar still strong that is an attractive option. Then the ebook, charity stores (op shops), library services online second hand sellers all take their share. Then there is rent, industry wisdom is that rent should represent 10% of business turnover, but again Australia has defied international trends with prices of residential properties at record highs and retail space also comparatively expensive.
Recently in Melbourne we have seen a spate of second hand bookshop closures in Parkdale, Boronia, Aspendale the CBD and more. The reasons may vary from store to store but the reality is that the number of second hand book stores is rapidly dimishing in a major city with a population of over 4 million.
I came into the B&M in 2006 with only a few years online hobby selling behind me and no other retail experience, but a major passion for books. I was not offered the lease at the original premises and in any case an examination of the financial records indicated that the business turnover was in steady decline at that location. I moved to a cheaper smaller shop in a centre three train stops down the line with a lot less foot traffic, planning to focus on online sales.
Til fairly recently this worked okay but now the online market has become much more competetive and I am looking to the B&M to bring in a larger share of revenue. I have started some advertising -an article here about thinking about rent and advertising as an expense bundle resonating. I have placed an add in the local paper (informal customer survey indicated that direct sales did not cover the add cost) with regular cheaper classified advertisements in the same local papers. I have 25% off discount flyers which were letterboxed locally, placed with local traders and are inserted with every online sale parcel. I have a new website (struggling with that), online listings with every free listing service I could find, listings on a number of listing services, an account with a shopping comparison guide, google adwords, face book ads, a twitter account. Browsers in the store who do not purchase are given a discount coupon to use on their next visit.
We also has a small article in the local paper about the affects of major works at the railway station on local traders, I certainly saw a bump in sales that week.
I have not tried TV and Radio advertising as financially I don’t feel I can afford it and with radio am not sure which stations would be appropriate.
To date the only discount coupon that has been redeemed is one I have handed directly to a customer.
However despite the apparent lack of direct responses to my attemps at marketing business is slowly improving, the rail works are completed and people are coming back to our strip centre. I have started selling a few current best sellers, discounted from RRP. After all if you get asked for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo every day maybe you should have it in stock?
I also try to be more active in selling in the shop, instead of just pointing people in the direction of their preferred genre, I suggest new authors, make sure they know about our book exchange deal, our bulk purchase discount, our book searching service. I do have to slap myself on the side of the head sometimes and remind myself that I am in retail so sell a book for goodness sake!
After some hesitation and taking into account the disruption caused by the public works since June 2009 I have just resigned the lease for another 3 years.
I know I have a lot more room to improve, inventory control is my biggest weakness, I need to get a decent window display and books three deep is not ideal. I also need to look at opening hours to try and capture some of the commuter traffic. There are at least 3000 people a day coming on and off trains and buses outside my door, just how will I get some of them inside the shop?
The one thing I don’t have any trouble acquiring is stock so many baby boomers downsizing I get more offers than I can handle.
Of course is there is only me to do the work.
My next plan is to think of something I can sell along side books, preferably something that doesn’t take up a lot of space.
10 Station St