Do your Buyers find what they want?

Here is Part 1 of a 3 Part series on Inventory Management. A great piece from Nora at Rainy Day Paper Back Exchange. It will get you thinking about optimizing your shop. It never hurts to do little a tweak here and there. We have sold many books right after moving them from one spot to another. Your regular customers can develop a ‘blinder effect’ after a while. This article should provoke you into at least thinking about placement if not actually moving a few things. Let us know if you’ve had success doing anything similar via the comments area.


Part 1

What to do with under-performing sections?

You’ve figured out that a section is really taking up far too much space compared to what it contributes to your bottom line. But what do you do to rehabilitate the section?

Move it!
Sometimes it’s the location that’s doomed a section. Consider who normally buys those books and look over the section with a careful eye. Once you take a careful look at a section you may see the problem.

For example, putting the books on parenting and childbirth at knee height won’t work. Pregnant ladies can’t see their feet, let alone that shelf. Sometimes it’s something you’d never think of, but smack your head when you hear someone say it out loud. To use the same example, if the parenting books are somewhere mom can’t get her stroller to, women with little children won’t buy those books.

If there’s no obvious reason, consider moving it next to a section that IS selling. The high traffic in that area may be enough to get a bad section out of its rut (see the blog article on planograms for more on this). Try and come up with a logical pairing. If your logical pairing didn’t work, try something completely illogical! We moved True Crime many times, placing it (logically) next to Mystery, Thriller, and Biography at points but finally found it sold when placed next to Science Fiction. We still have no idea why.

Move PART of the section
A little shuffling may be just what was needed because where you shelved it wasn’t where your customers thought it should be. This is easiest to do with nonfiction sections. Don’t overload a high performing section with books from a poor section. Just move some of the most valuable books.

For example, say you have a book about the psychology of serial killers. You could easily put it in psychology or true crime. If it gets real specific with examples, it might even fit in biography. Try moving some of the higher priced items to a different section and see if they move there. Don’t forget to put a new date on them to indicate when they’ve overstayed their welcome there!

Remodel it!
If the section happens to be somewhere that gets natural light, walk into it several different times during the day and check the light level. It may be unbearably bright or thrown entirely into shadow for part of the day. Installing a curtain or a spotlight that can be adjusted during the day may be all that’s needed.

Also stand there for a few moments, preferably while there’s customers in the store. If it’s a tight space, browsers may be giving up because they keep getting bumped by other customers trying to get by. People generally will put up with being jostled once. Twice and they’ll move unless they REALLY want it. Consider moving “grab and go” stuff to that spot instead. Serial romances and Cliff Notes are good examples. Customers’ll glance at it quickly and decide in maybe 5 seconds whether they’re buying or not, so they won’t get jostled or block the aisle.

You can also consider moving around some of your fixtures to create a little more aisle space or to reroute the foot traffic away from that section. Less foot traffic seems like it should lead to less sales, but giving people time to browse items undisturbed may actually lead to more sales. Putting the high priced items that people will examine in detail far off the main foot traffic may actually make them sell better. Those willing to drop $500 on a book will still find the section, but won’t get run over by a baby stroller while contemplating their purchase. Adding a couple slatwall shelves to display books with fantastic images on the cover is something else to consider.

Also consider whether there’s adequate places to put things down. This is especially true to sections browsed by women with small children (such as the kids section). If mom’s got a toddler in one arm, she’s only got one arm free to browse with. If she has nowhere to put her purchases down while she continues shopping, she’ll only buy one or two books.

Look for Part 2 & 3 later this week

Rainy Day Paperback Exchange
Bethel, CT
gently used books for kids and adults

related posts: Using a Plannogram | Killing a Section

6 thoughts on “Do your Buyers find what they want?”

  1. customers can develop a ‘blinder effect’ after a while

    That’s True! While shopping for books, though I never intend to but I seem to create a image while moving through a book shelf and next time when I return tend to move ahead if no changes seem to be there (by just looking through a couple of books)

  2. For more details on hidden details related to how people shop, get yourself a copy of “Why we Buy: the Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill. It goes into much greater detail than I could here.

    There’s not a lot in the book about bookstores, but a lot of it is applicable to all businesses.

  3. Pingback: Big Bad Book Blog » Blog Archive » Big Bad Book Blog Newsfeed::12-18-07

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