Success or failure in business comes down to meeting your expenses and hopefully generating enough profit to build a comfortable lifestyle and all this comes down to profitable sales from customers. Having plenty of stock means nothing if you haven’t got the customers to purchase your books, so the fundamental question is: how do you attract customers to your bookshop?
Tell the customers that you are open and ready for business. Hang an “Open” sign on the door or better still have a colourful neon light that flashes on and off. Going to the effort of informing the public that you are open sends the message that you want them in your shop.
Inform the public of your trading hours and stick to them. I’ve got core days and of hours operation but I also inform the public that these are “minimum hours of operation” so that they don’t feel pressured to leave at a set time and it also adds flexibility into opening and closing outside of my core hours.
Don’t badger people to come into your shop. I’ve seen the disturbing sight of a haberdasher accosting potential customers from outside the door of her shop. Nothing makes a business reek of imminent financial death more than desperate staff trying to get people to come into their shop. I like to think that I am providing a service to the public that they should appreciate; the general public should think that they are doing themselves a favour by entering my shop, not doing me a favour. Humans are inherently unreliable and self-interest is the primary motivational force in their purchasing activities.
Once in the shop, the customer should be left on their own to browse. I encourage customers to seek advice by putting a sign up that reads “Not on the shelf? It maybe in storage – ask at the counter.” The customer knows where you are: ideally behind the counter ready to provide assistance. Labels should clearly identify categories and authors should be put into alphabetical order for added ease. Magazines should be on magazine stands and books should be readily accessible on the shelf. Books shouldn’t be too tightly shelved and ideally one row of books per shelf. This advice seems like common sense but I’ve walked into bookshops that look like badly run storage rooms with up to three rows of books on shelves with each book camouflaging another and worse still stacks of books on the shop floor.
Make the shop welcoming by keeping it clean. Women especially appreciate a pleasant smelling, clean floor; I mop my floor each and every morning. I have the windows cleaned and the place regularly dusted with a duster. Of course, cleaning is never done and any spare time is spent cleaning the shop of cobwebs and dust. The bookshop manager and his/her staff should look clean and presentable too: I always have a freshly ironed shirt on. As an aside, a presentable shop goes hand in hand with a safe and secure shop. This means having the proper insurance if something should occur. Many bookshop owners take advantage of having their home insurance, car insurance as well as that of the business all wrapped up into one package. The right coverage can mean the difference in being closed for a few weeks or opening the next day after some damage from a break in. Ask a local broker if this can be setup for you.