There’s some great news for independent bookstores. Much like Mark Twain, “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” This news comes as a welcome surprise to the reading public, after a wealth of reports in the early 2000s predicted their demise at the hands of big box retailers.
But after the predicted dip, the number of independent bookstores has increased by 27 percent in recent years, and independent bookstore sales are increasing more than book sales in general.
In retrospect, it’s not difficult to see why they are thriving. Independent bookstores deal in goods that people have a nostalgic craving for. Moreover, they offer four things essential to the human experience, things a chain retailer is just not able to offer.
At first, it may have seemed like online giants would displace the independent bookstore, but no one knows a reader like another reader. No algorithm can ever take the place of someone you trust asking what you’re looking for or seeing what you are purchasing - and being able to tell you about a great find you may have overlooked.
That personal touch cannot be overstated. Even better than the feel of the page, the lure of the written word, is that thrill of discovery and the connection with another person who understands. And, after all the hubbub, it seems that technology actually has been a helper to the handselling that independent booksellers excel at.
Technology gives independent bookstores access to an online presence and promotion, inventory and POS software, and more that ease the cost of doing business. Social media, too, is a community creator that allows booksellers to do online what they have been doing face-to-face for decades.
Diversified Product Offerings
Bookstores are a source of books and periodicals, of course. But don’t forget the products that enhance the book buying and browsing experience and accessories that help book lovers show their membership in that club.
Bookstores have long found success in adding cafes to offer patrons coffee, tea, and more that encourage them to stay longer and (hopefully) buy more. But how about wine and beer to add to the social experience of a bookstore as a bar alternative?
And don’t forget the canvas tote bags and other merchandise. The legendary Strand Book Store in New York’s East Village sees 15 percent of their revenue made up of merch sales: t-shirts and postcards with cheeky sayings and action figures that coordinate with graphic novel sales.
Foster a Community
When you put together book recommendations from people who feel like friends, books that feel like family, and add cafes for food and drink, an independent bookstore begins to seem a bit like a living room.
Booksellers further this sense of community by hosting events like author readings, kids’ events, and panel discussions that bring the neighborhood together. It’s as essential as a town hall for creating cultural hub and exchange of ideas.
Offer an Experience
In this modern day of Instagram, people seek out unique destinations. Bookstores are taking advantage of this craze. Consider Denver’s BookBar, a bookstore/wine bar/coffee shop with a daily happy hour and wealth of events. They host literary trivia nights, book socials, and meet-ups they call “book club one-night stands.”
Or The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, which has become social media famous and a tourist destination for its photogenic book tunnels and sculptures, arrangements by color, and cool architectural details. Some of these destination bookstores are so ready for their close-up, they are offered as spaces for weddings and other events. Now, that’s a happily ever after.
Bookstores are More than Books
Are you offering everything that the readers in your community are craving? Find out how to capture every opportunity that comes your way here!