If I Started A Bookstore Today?
I got asked that question today and honestly I know exactly how to make a used bookstore very profitable in today’s world. I would not start a new store. Too expensive, too small of profit margins, too much risk, and honestly no real need with online bookstores working the way they are working for more and more people.
But I know how to start a very profitable used bookstore. And keep in mind, I have owned and run two used bookstores in my lifetime, but I would NEVER start a new used bookstore the way I did the two I used to own. It is a different world now.
So to make a bookstore work, I would move into this century.
Here are the steps I would do…
— Find a decent but not too expensive location. Should be easy in the next year with so much retail collapsing. (Get as long a lease as possible, you don’t want to move a bookstore. Trust me.)
— I would spend a goodly amount of money on a point of sale inventory system, a system that can spit out price stickers with codes, and a cash register that would track inventory. Critical and not cheap.
— Every book I got into the store I would put into the inventory system, of course using either the ISBN code or for older books, my own store code.
— I would start an online store with both Stripe and PayPal hooked up and every book in the physical store would be in the online store. The tracking system in the computer would tell me what shelf in the store it is on. If it sold online or in the store, it would be tracked.
— Then the key is that every book in the store would also be for sale on Amazon. And older, expensive collectable books would be on ABE and eBay.
I would set this up to start, so it would take some months to get up and going even with a small inventory. Then every book that came in the door I would do the same.
Now I have cash streams. Someone walking in the door, or someone finds it on my own online store. Or someone finds it on Amazon or ABE or eBay. All cash streams.
But all this comes down to a point of sale inventory system. All possible and you can buy them ready to go for bookstores right off the shelf. And this easily could be a one person operation and make some really, really nice money.
I would have signs suggesting if someone is looking for a book in the store, to search my online store.
And I would do a yearly Kickstarter to help out and donate books to schools and libraries and such and to help fund the store as well.
You use that system I just outlined, the store would be profitable without a doubt.
When I owned Pop Culture Collectables, I made my employees list 25 things a day on eBay at least. They always complained. I didn’t care. No misses and I was nasty about hitting that. Why? Because we made over two thirds of our money on eBay. And when days happened that one one came in the store, we were still selling and making money.
This is a modern world. Most bookstores won’t do this, of course. Powell’s Bookstore in Portland has its own online store and that has helped keep it alive so far. Roberts Bookstore in Lincoln City has a good web site as well. But neither sell on Amazon and Powell’s has point of purchase inventory system. For them it would be a no-brainer and so easy.
So anyhow, that is an answer to a question I got today.
A side note: Yes, I am working on Cave Creek. I will catch that up tomorrow.