Book Oasis's Fertile Ideas
More on shining during tough times: Dan and Debbie Sullivan, owners of the Book Oasis, Stoneham, Mass., write:
The Book Oasis is doing quite well. Like Beach Books in Oregon, we also beat our Deathly Hallows month this summer. We are still experiencing growth and have heard the same thing from most of the other stores in our area. We believe the economy, the price of gas and the cost of eating out have made used books a low cost form of entertainment.
We do have the benefit of being the only used/new bookstore in a 10-town radius, and we are getting customers from all the New England states regularly. Unfortunately, the area recently lost two Annie's used bookstores and the Sundial Bookstore in Lexington, making our store name feel more and more like a prophecy made just five years ago.
The biggest key to our success this summer was the huge amount of early preparation we did for the school summer reading programs. We have developed good relationships with the librarians and English departments of more than 15 schools. By the time the kids got their lists, we had already created an 8' by 7' high summer reading section. Each school had its own shelf with books organized by grade. This made it easy for the parents to find their school and get in and out, and made it much easier for our two-person staff to assist the crowd without having to run all over the store. Happy parents are a good thing.
Second, we took a page from another local bookstore and decided to offer The Tales of Beedle the Bard at full cover price and then donate $3 from each book to the local food pantry. If customers bring in a non-perishable item when they purchase their books, we are giving them another $1 off. The pre-Christmas timing made the food pantry a logical choice, and they couldn't be more excited. Our customers are thrilled with the idea. This has kept our August sales strong.
In addition, we have developed give-and-take relationships with a few of the other used bookstores in the area. Each of our stores has different strengths and our clienteles have different desires. We fill inventory holes by exchanging excess or unwanted books. One of us thrives on science fiction, another on romance and we like nonfiction. We get to make our customers happy and save money by not ordering new books unless it's necessary.