Independent bookstores possess several advantages over big box retailers, but the biggest one may be flexibility. Want to try a new event or stock a new line of products? Go for it! The only limit is your creativity.
As a result, a shift is happening within independent bookstores. These indies are going beyond books to seek new ways to engage readers and finding increased sales in the process.
To attract new customers and give regular patrons another reason to stop by, try hosting game night like Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Ill. Anderson’s offers customers a good time with game demonstrations while adding to their revenue stream. By ensuring booksellers are knowledgeable about featured games and offering discounts during game nights they have seen games become one of their bestsellers.
But you don’t have to take on that level of commitment to reap the benefits of a fun, interactive event. Kona Stories in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, hosts a casual bring-your-own game night. Spellbinder Books & Coffee in Bishop, Ca., hosted a literary costume contest. Other stores like Bookshop Santa Cruz host literary trivia nights, complete with prizes and local brews. They all have found that unique experiences boost traffic and sales.
Independent bookshops are embracing two annual events -- Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) (in April) and Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) -- with big celebrations. IBD generates a festival like atmosphere with food, drinks, music, costumes, scavenger hunts, story time, and “coloring book happy hours,” in addition to the usual book readings and signings.
The day after Black Friday, in the spirit of the season, has a more charitable mission in mind. All small businesses are offered free marketing tools. Businesses in Nashville, Tenn., have compounded these efforts with a “shop local, give back” initiative. The day is growing in popularity; more than 95 million people shopped small last year, an 8% increase from Small Business Saturday in 2014.
Maybe your shop already stocks canvas totes, postcards, and other gifts in addition to books and periodicals. In that case, it’s only a small step to adding cluster products, or items related to the books you sell. Think puzzles in the kids section, artisanal honey and wine stoppers next to cookbooks, cozy throws and scented candles by the beautiful home books and magazines, or vases and floral stationery in the gardening section. Bonus points for highlighting local products.
In today’s harried world, people need hubs of creativity, community and activity more than ever, and your bookstore fits those requirements to a tee. Consult this list of 60 ideas that communicate to the world that your local shop is the place to be, including partnerships with other small businesses and professionals in the area, new ways to use technology and social media, new revenue streams, thought leadership, and more.
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!