Universal truths – Isn’t it possible they apply to the book business!

We have a new contributing writer to introduce. George from Calgary (I’ll get his last name soon and see if he can share a short bio with us). Please take a sec to visit his website, Fair’s Fair – no online sales but a very nicely designed site.


I have seen many bookstores come and go during our years in the business (by the end of this year 4-5 reasonably good Calgary operators will have closed their shops) – most of them have complained about the increase in rents caused by the real estate boom these past few years.

For years I was under the same impression “a used books store needs a location with low rent!”

I now fully understand the phrases “Location! Location! Location!” and “There is no free lunch!”

It is possible other bookstore operators can make a case against those two phrases if your online sales numbers work but I really doubt that they do when you take all the extra work into consideration. We gave up on internet sales 1 1/2 years ago because the numbers produced did not justify the inordinate amount of work it took to produce those numbers and the usual suspects holding the hammer required a large part of our inventory to be held in abeyance – or else!

Our experience with the local market is “If you build it they will come!” – particularly if the thing you are trying to build is somewhere in the realm of “beyond your wildest dreams!” … smile.
What this business needs is more workaholics … lol.

It took me 17 years before I overcame the mental block about “low rent = possible success over many years” and tuned in to the reality “high rent (the rent required to obtain a legitimate retail location) = assured success within 2-3 years leading to continuous growth.”

The only cautions I would add – be sure you have a broad-based inventory of at least 15-20,000+ books and make sure your store has high visibility (try not to be in the middle of a block – look for a corner location).

Our latest store (opened June 26th in an extremely busy stripmall) covered its high rent in the first 24 days.
Now, almost at the 2 month anniversary date, daily average sales are continuing to climb and the enthusiasm of our clientele has been overwhelming – almost stunning … whew.

So … the 17 year apprenticeship we served is starting to pay dividends … smile.

Now all we have to do is continue working our asses off for another 50 years … so we can continue to thoroughly enjoy our lives for another 100 years.

It is amazing and gratifying to be in a business where the harder you work – the more you learn – and the more you learn – the insignificance of the monetary rewards, when compared to the worthiness of the enterprise, becomes more and more clear.

How much money would it take to balance the scales loaded down by the ooohs and ahhhs of satisfied customers?