Ingram Blog

Building Communities: The Bookstore and The Public Space

There is truly nothing like a good bookstore. The smell of the books, the cozy reading nooks, and the comradery that comes along with spending a few hours with other book lovers in your neighborhood just can’t be beat. As an independent retail bookstore owner in a rapidly growing digital age, it is imperative to recognize the major role your book store plays in your community. Be creative, lure in people with irresistible community events, or make your store a comfortable gathering place to monetize the bookstore experience. It is your responsibility (and privilege) to keep the American bookstore alive!

Here are some great ideas to help build communities in your bookstore to foster a reading community that can lead to endless opportunities for not only the store, but everyone involved.

Design a Welcoming Environment

Create a place that is welcoming to readers and writers; a place where they want to come to be a part of your unique community. For some, comfortable furniture for mingling and lingering or plenty of tables for writing and studying is what they look for in a bookstore. Others may enjoy ambient music, scented candles, and a quiet library feel. No matter what environment your unique customers crave, one thing is certain: they all want to easily find what they are looking for, so product organization and informative displays are crucial. In addition, cleverly designed window displays catch the attention of passersby and make them want to see what's inside! Creative, well thought out displays of books entertain and entice people to read new authors and subjects. Well organized stores with in labeled sections help customers allow them to explore the store with comfort and ease.

Be the ‘Hostess with the Mostest

Get creative and plan events that welcome the people in your community to your store. Ideas include:

    • ‘Food & Drink Demonstrations’ –match books with the food or wine they discuss or a new recipe is made onsite from a new cookbook;
    • Pet Day –team up with a local shelter to help animals find homes, or let customers bring their favorite furry friends while you display pet lover and ‘how-to’ books for owners;
    • Game Night –invite people for a game and/or demo and offer discounts on game related books. A literary trivia game night can be a great way to test your customer’s book knowledge too.

Provide a Service

Smart business owners diversify their offerings. Books are obviously the 'bread and butter' of independent bookstores, but offering another service your customers can use just makes sense. A good idea that many indie bookstores are having success with is to offer classes. Having language, writing, craft, or other types of classes in the bookstore not only attracts potential customers, but it can boost books sales in the specific subjects that you're offering. Be sure to set up displays to encourage students to read books on the class subject and even choose one as the 'guide' to the class.

Neighborhood Shopping Nights

Plan a ‘Neighborhood Shopping Night’ where you spotlight books, provide refreshments, hold raffles for gift cards and books, have guest speakers, and even have the local elementary school chorus perform. Make this a monthly event and get the community involved by teaming with restaurants, bakeries, schools, girl and boy scouts, and more.

Book Club Guru

Be the book club! Create unique book clubs that offer a variety of different interests and age groups. Plan clubs for teens, seniors, moms, and even singles in your store to urge people to come, read, mingle…and of course, spend money! Another variation is to act as the ‘concierge’ for at-home book clubs where you host a movie night for book clubs to choose their next read. You can offer book suggestions as well as a discount for the selected book, provide video trailers to get readers interested, and even serve wine or coffee for guests.

The key to being a successful independent bookseller is to create a comfortable and inviting environment that others can’t compete with. Get to know the people and become part of their lives for the best success.

One Good Idea Deserves Another
What’s your idea for events and activities to enhance your independent bookstore experience? No matter your goals, Ingram’s vast resources for retailers can help make it happen. Find out how to capture every opportunity that comes your way here!