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Recap and Resources from the B3! Webinar “Bringing Used Books into the Mix for Higher Sales and Profit."

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Last week SIBA hosted the B3! webinar "Bringing Used Books into the Mix for Higher Sales and Profit." Megan Bell and Josh Niesse from Underground Books in Carrollton, GA and Hills & Hamlets in Serenbe, GA , Cathy Graham from Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, FL, Frank Reiss of A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA, and Shane Gottwal's from Gottwals Books (franchising nationwide as "Walls of Books") of Macon, GA and beyond presented their best tips. Because all the presenters began as used booksellers adding in new books, stores transitioning in a similar way will also find this webinar quite informative.

Josh noted the "incredible variety of approach to including used books" among the panelists. He and Megan prefer to buy book collections from private homes rather than allowing folks to bring boxes of books to the store. These bulk purchases help the unit price go down. Although he and Megan emphasize being selective, when they find aesthetically interesting but damaged books, like children's books, they may take them off the owner's hands for free, and then use what they can from these books to create journals, buttons, and more for sale in their stores. They hold a quarterly sidewalk sale to clear out inventory, and these days are often record sales days.

Although Cathy's store is moving towards 70% new and 30% used, they do quite well with used books in genres like mystery and romance, and have a separate antiquarian book section. They are quite selective about what they bring in, Cathy emphasizing that "more isn't better" and they only buy "gently-used" books. She loves the "cool factor" of beautiful and retro antiquarian books, and mentioned a growing trend in younger customers appreciating and purchasing antiquarian books.

Frank cautioned that "it's a challenge to do both (new & used books) well." He noted that they are very different from each other. The aesthetics and price margins for used books appeal to him, but he's always considering the allocation of labor costs, as well has how to best merchandise them. He advised booksellers looking to add used books to "respect how much time used books can take...if you're going to do both, then have a lot of focus." He agreed with Cathy's comment about younger customers being drawn to used books, saying, "Young people do seem to be getting into old books in a way that surprises me, and is gratifying."

Shane's buying philosophy is one of bringing in as much product as you can in categories that do well for you. His buyers are serving multiple stores and selling online, with the ability to store overstock in a warehouse, which is different from the other presenters. He suggested keeping used books separate from new books in the store, at least initially. He also believes online sales of college textbooks is a lucrative market for new stores wanting to start selling used.

Questions from attendees including paying for used books with credit and/or cash, charging for shipping, online sales and pricing, and whether adding used books undermines new book sales.

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Additional resources are Cathy Graham's tips and pitfalls when adding used books to your new book inventory, Josh and Megan's Used Book Sorting Chart, and tipsheet on evaluating used book values, and Shane's 2017 Winter Institute presentation on bringing used books into your inventory. All are available in our Peer Brain Trust under Working with Business Resources.

Tags:  b3! webinars  Bookseller education  Used books 

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B3! Webinar: Bringing Used Books into the Mix for Higher Sales and Profit

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Mark your calendars for Wed, October 16 at 2pm EST, to hear from four booksellers whose bookstores offer a profitable blend of new and used books. With higher profit margins and unique inventory possibilities, adding used and antiquarian books into your mix could be a way to bring in new customers, further meet the needs of existing ones, and improve your cash flow. And it can be fun! Highlighting used and collectible books on social media offers creative opportunities to share unusual jacket designs, hilariously dated subject matter, and ephemera left from a book’s previous owner. Unsaleable used inventory can be turned into journals, buttons, and literary confetti, as Underground Books has done so successfully. Join us to listen to four approaches to selling used books, and blending them into your new book inventory. Please rsvp to attend.

More about our Presenters:

Cathy Graham is co-owner (with Serena Wyckoff) of Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, FL. They started their bookselling business 15 years ago in the garage, selling used books online. Now they have a full-service shop – almost 7 years open – and most of the books they sell are new.  Cathy’s background includes teaching high school, the US Air Force, a couple of corporate sales jobs, and a Benedictine monastery. She grew up in Orlando, spent many years in Maryland, and a few in Costa Rica. Besides reading, she enjoys cooking, music, wine, cats and goats (although she doesn't have any goats at the moment).

Shane Gottwals was born and raised in Macon, GA, attending Central Fellowship Christian Academy from kindergarten until graduation. He has a B.A. in English from Mercer University, spending a portion of his college years at Oxford University in England. He met his wife, Abbey, at Mercer University. They have four children and live in Warner Robins, GA. The couple opened Gottwals Books in 2007. Shane has extensive retail experience which has helped Gottwals Books (franchising nationwide as "Walls of Books") become one of the largest used/new bookstore chains in the United States. He currently serves on the boards of Covenant Care Adoption Services, Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce, Central Fellowship Christian Academy, and Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

Frank Reiss has been buying, selling and trading used, out-of-print and collectible books for over 35 years, first at Acorn Books in San Francisco and, since 1989, as the founder and owner of A Cappella Books in Atlanta, which has earned Hall-of-Fame status from "Atlanta Magazine" and is annually selected in "Creative Loafing's" "Best of Atlanta" issue. In the 1990s Frank served as president of the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association. Since then A Cappella has focused more on new books and contemporary touring author signings, but carefully selected older books continue to shape the store's unique inventory.

Josh Niesse is the co-owner of two independent brick & mortar bookstores in west Georgia. Underground Books, opened in 2011, is an 1800 square foot bookstore that is literally underground, a few steps below street level off of the historic town square in Carrollton, Georgia, home of the University of West Georgia. Underground Books is primarily used & antiquarian, with about 20% new books. Hills & Hamlets Bookshop is a 600 square foot bookstore, dealing in about 80% new books, opened in 2016 in the progressive planned eco-community of Serenbe.  Niesse co-owns both stores with his wife and fellow bookseller Megan Bell. Niesse has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and worked as a literacy tutor and bartender before becoming a bookseller. 


Tags:  B3! Webinars  Used books 

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