To Cull or not To Cull your Bookshop’s Inventory

I have problems with inventory management. I need to improve my inventory management skills. If I keep saying it maybe a miracle will happen. I keep on saying I must throw out those old Reader Digest Atlases they take up so much space and then lo and behold today someone buys one. See? I was right not to get rid of them.

culling book inventoryToday I have actually culled the Time Life World’s Wild Places series books, they are going to a good home, giving them to the gentleman who does odd jobs for me as he loves this type of book. It only took me four years but I have finally gotten them off the shelf.
Next I went through the general fiction, my classics and penguins do well but the Picadors are generally unloved. They aren’t quite out the door but they are getting a spin online, reasonably priced, to see if they do better there. Someone has a blog somewhere they ask why I have to have so many copies of In the Days of the American Museum here and really it is a good question. Why do I have so many copies? Why do I have so many copies of Foetal Attraction? Why do I have so many copies of Brmm. It’s a mystery.

Next I am picking out This Little Woman by Judith Rosser, apparently she wrote Looking for Mr Goodbar but no one has ever shown the slightest interest in my three somewhat tatty copies of This Little Woman. I deface the first page with $1 NR and put them out on the one dollar trolley. Within moments a lady had chosen five books from the trolley, plane trip throw aways she says. Yeah, says I taking her purple money with great pleasure.

Another lady comes in looking for Mills and Boon and I find out that yet another second hand book shop is no longer with us. This one was right at the end of the train line in Lilydale. The lady takes a stack of Sexy Romances away and looks likely to return. You might know Mills and Boon as Harlequin romances, the ones that are published every month in their multitudes, short enough to polish off in one sitting. Sexies have red covers they are not as polite as the ones with the blue covers (Sweets) A little read to take your mind off your troubles. I occasionally read them when I am having difficulty sleeping. I went through a Betty Neels addiction which lasted for all 134 (approximately) of her books. Betty’s were before the colour coding era but I can safely say they would have been Sweets.

A lot of bookshops don’t sell Mills and Boon but not us. We sell them. The previous owner of my shop could never say no to exchanges of Mills and Boon to the extent were there was an estimated 10,000 of them in the old shop. I think he had little old ladies lining up every morning with bags and baskets full. In sheer desperation one of his offsiders boxed them up and put them in the laneway behind the shop under a couple of those cheap blue plastic tarpaulins. The area was frequented by pigeons. Say no more. When it came time to move I said I can’t possibly touch them and they mysteriously disappeared. I found out later they were kindly donated to a local charity. I didn’t ever tell them about the pigeons.

I still managed to get a couple of thousand of those Mills and Boon most of which I sold off for 20c each, these days I try to keep mostly current titles but there are a few older ones lurking here and there. I sold a stack to a couple taking them to Papua New Guinea where apparently they are quite popular. I like to think of my Mills and Boon books as seasoned travellers.

It’s funny how often people come in and look down their noses and say “oh, you only sell fiction”. “No, I don’t I say” and show them my biographies and history and travel and art and military and so on and so forth. I feel like saying I would be starving in a damp cellar if I relied on non-fiction. Biographies are so slow they are going backwards but you have to have them if you have any pretentions of being a proper book shop.

Now I have to think about culling again , have definitely decided the 70s and 80s who wrote that? fiction is going but maybe some of those old thrillers….just as soon as the $1 trolley needs a refill.

Therese Holland
McLeods Books
10 Station St
Nunawading 3131
ph 0398777214
open 7 days

7 thoughts on “To Cull or not To Cull your Bookshop’s Inventory”

  1. Therese, have you been spying on me by satellite or something? In the last two weeks I have cleared out 32 (yes, thirty-two) boxes of books from a storage area that was completely out of control. My landlord said last week, surveying the chaos, “You need more storage room.” “No!” I shrieked. “I need to clear out this stuff that isn’t worth selling, even if I had room for it in the shop. Books in storage don’t pay their way. Half of this must go!” And so it did–some of the paperbacks straight to recycling, the rest to a large thrift shop, one of a chain with branches all over the country. One of my staunchest supporters when I launched into this building in 1993 was a woman whose bookshop handled only new books, and I was surprised to learn that inventory control was one of her biggest challenges. Accumulation is typical of book-lovers. I’m glad you are not starving in a damp cellar, however. Take and keep control! I’m reminding myself as much as saying it to anyone else….

  2. Ah, the addiction of Betty Neels. It’s the same book over and over but there’s something fascinating in seeing what the shuffle of her standard elements brought about each time. I have a Betty Neels bingo I made up. All the squares have an element she uses often (rent table, girl gobbling her food, dutch doctor as The Hero, lost in the woods rescue, evil plotting Other Woman, etc) and when I get five in a row I yell “Betty!” and check the page number I am on when it happens. The lowest I ever got was page 36…. I have a terrible terrible desire to write a parody but I have no time.

    Sexies and Sweets, eh? Modern romances are starting to bother me. So many are set in the glittering world of the rich and sophisticated and now it’s not getting your man, it’s getting your billionaire. Pleh.

    • Ah yes Caro beautiful girl one day, jolie laide the next. Still I just adore Betty and good on her for the career change at age sixty, there is hope for all of us.
      P J Am glad am not on lonesome with the hideous bugbear of inventory control but let’s not talk about storage lockers okay?
      Cos that makes me think there is possibly someone tracking MY movements.

  3. I am absolutely ruthless when it comes to culling the shelves. I bought way too many books my first year so I always have more inventory ready to shelve. My policy is not to rearrange shelves to make room for stuff. If there isn’t room for a new book on the shelf, an old book goes to the dollar-cart. There are three used-book stores in my town and the other two are known for being dusty, quaint, and basically frozen in amber with regard to their inventories. I decided I wanted mine to be known for insane turnover which is what I try to provide.

    I can absolutely sympathize about biographies; I thought I was the only one who almost never sold them. I noted a copy of Iacocca in the picture, too. Was there some law in the 80s that everybody had to own like three copies of that?

    • Hi Alan

      I think you have a choice of three copies of either Iacocca, SeinLanguage or Couplehood and this is in Australia for crying out loud.
      or perhaps every book every written by Shirley McLaine
      I am dusty and quaint, really I am, you should see me;
      but I do get new books in all the time, every day even.

      Therese aka Petrified Inventory

    • I only have 624 square feet in my shop so I am a BRUTAL culler. I normally cull every 6 months. If I sell less than 10% of a section in that time I’ll either heavo ho the whole section, move it to a new location in stoe, or resdistribute the contents to other sections if they were “crossover” type books (example, artist biography may move from biography to art). Ones that are selling under 30% turnover just get trimmed of stuff that’s been here 2 years or more.

      Brutally culling sections often boosts the sales in them because you remove the visual clutter. You couldn’t sell anything out of that giant section… trim it down to half its size and magically it’s selling more (dollarwise) than it was when it was twice the size.

      I’ve occasionally culled things down by trading with other dealers as there are regional differences in demand. What I have lots of, they can’t keep on their shelves. So I swap them a giant box of stuff for what I want and we just pay postage on the swap.

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