The demise of the brick and mortar store and of print books can be slowed down if bookstores do the following:
1. Offer great customer service. Workers need to be well-informed, so they can chat customers up intelligently, whether it is about new books, classics, book reviews and best-seller lists – or about news, trends, and society. The bookstore can be a place where intelligent people get informed – not just by the books themselves but the people who sell them.
2. Make it a personable, and enjoyable experience to patronize a bookstore. The online disadvantage is that no one talks to you. There is no human contact. You just type in an order and reduce the experience of buying a book to refilling a prescription for blood-pressure medicine. A store can give a person a sense of human interaction, so show some life to win over a customer.
3. Keep the bookstore as a gathering place for intelligent, like-minded people, who see supporting their local store the way one patronizes the arts, ballet, and museums. The bookstore is like an art gallery. It is not like any other store. It is sacred – a cross between a temple, a school, and a home.
4. Bookstores offer books in a physical setting for those who like to discover and browse, so make many books available for viewing. Have as many books as possible face-out, on tables, or made available for viewing. Let the colorful colors, textured pages, and the scent of ink draw in the customer. Have many lounge chairs for people to sit on and sample books. Sell them some coffee and pastries – or glasses of wine – and they will stay there.
5. Sponsor many community events, book readings, and author appearances. They draw in crowds and tie readers together. Being a book reader makes you part of a club, even if you don’t talk to the person next to you.
6. Encourage book groups to meet at your store and discuss a book.
7. Beef up your store’s web site but don’t highlight the purchasing of e-books or of ordering books online. You want people in the store, discovering things they would not have thought or known about to purchase otherwise.
8. Be open for long hours. Don’t close up by sun down. Be the staple of the community. Nine to five doesn’t work here. Try alternating hours as well. Just as stores may stay open later on a Friday or Saturday, consider opening early on Sunday or being open during holidays. You need to be open to make money.
9. Bookstores need to work with local organizations to drive sales. For instance, a bookstore should contact a business that has speakers and offer to process book sales for their events. Or the bookstore can inform various organizations of an author appearance scheduled at the store.
10. Do not be passive – market yourself. Sure people may stumble upon you (tourists) or seek you out in times of need (to buy a present or find a hot title), but you must be on the offensive and sell your store and sell the concept of loving books, valuing knowledge, and exploring all of the world’s possibilities through your fiction collection.
11. Transform part of your store to be something other than books. Sell toys, music, and novelties. Sell periodicals, comic books and snacks. You cannot be a supermarket or move too far off your mission to sell books, but take advantage of ways to make money while also being seen as providing a service to customers.
12. Make donations and form a charitable side to your business. Let’s face it – you are on the endangered species list. You need to build up a fund to cover the lean days to come. Bookstores are so valuable to society, whether digital-lovers realize it or not. We must not let the bookstore as a concept go under. It is the original superhighway of information. We just need to fill its potholes and repave the lanes.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.
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