Monday, October 13, 2008

Resting on my laurels?

Pegasus Books had so little inventory at the beginning, (1984), that I spent years spending just to catch up. Or chasing bubbles, only to get there just as they popped. Fortunately, some instinct early on told me to have something else in the wings to fall back on, even if it meant diverting capital from the best-selling product.

Basically, I finally had to borrow money from the banks a couple times to reach the scale I needed.

And then made the mistake of borrowing money to open second, third, and fourth stores. Only to have to scale back again, relying on my credit cards to get me through.

Then spent years trying to both pay back the credit money while looking for product lines to diversify into. And so on and so on.

What I'm trying to say here is, I thought the day would come when I would have the store I wanted, and I could rest on my laurels.

Never happened.

Never will happen.

If anything, the rate of change has speeded up.

I find myself constantly adapting to survive to new conditions. Constantly having to change.

Here I find myself -- in the midst of a true recession -- adding yet another new product line, chasing the customer, just when I swore I wouldn't. Just as money becomes tight. Just as my store is bursting at the seams already.

But new books are selling at twice the pace I expected. (I kick myself a little for having been frightened away from new books over the years by all the stories. But I console myself when I remember that the walk-by traffic used to not be there, nor the sources -- both my wife's store and book wholesalers who were willing to sell to me--or the internet to facilitate the process, nor did I want to hurt the Book Barn.)

I've figured out enough good and reliable sources. I've discovered that I can change the store, morph it into a kind of pop-culture bookstore -- almost a real bookstore -- at a pace I choose and can afford.

Usually it's a race between bringing in a new product quick enough to be taken seriously and to create enough new customers and sales to pay for the new product. Get too much product too fast, and you go into debt. Don't get enough product fast enough, and you won't garner enough new customers fast enough.

Books are proving to be something that I can bring in within cash flow, because the majority of customers aren't regulars, but walk-bys, and or tourists.

They see books in the window, they come in and see books on the shelf, and they think I'm a bookstore. They may ask for a particular book and I don't have it, but that seems unavoidable. There are one hell of a lot of books in the world.

I'd originally envisioned just doing a moderate number of books, not having to move much around, and concentrating especially on carrying fiction.

But I started brainstorming this weekend about how I might be able to carry small sections of non-fiction, as well. In other words, become a full blown bookstore. And as my mind started churning, I realized that I could probably increase or refine my used book section as well.

Without spending a ton of money. Mostly it requires removing dead product, and sticking them in boxes. (Old toys, mostly.) What little 'display' space I have left would be turned completely over the product. (There is quite a bit of wall space that is used to little effect; selling older comics face out on the wall, for instance, hasn't sold many comics over the last few years. Or another example, I created a little castle by my games that I've enjoyed -- I suppose they add to the atmosphere -- but it hasn't help sell much in any direct way, and putting boardgames there instead would be a better use of the space.....pity.) There will be more consolidation. I think I can pull it off. I'll have the outlines in place by the end of October, and hopefully have it smoothed out by Thanksgiving.

It's amazing how I can find new places to sell stuff. I hope the floor won't collapse under the weight. I've penciled out about 25 rough categories of books that will cover most everything.

I wish I didn't feel like I needed to do it, but it's time to adapt yet again. To be honest, I enjoy it as well. Makes me feel alive and engaged.

I suppose I'll never see the day when I can rest on my laurels.


RDC said...

Honestly do you really want to?

From everything you have discussed, if you ever reached that point, you would probably not like it. You have indicated repeatedly that when you stop buying you start losing interest and motivation.

Duncan McGeary said...

Not really sure at all.

Except that doing nothing might be worse.

It's who's coming in the door. Middle aged readers. I may not succeed in getting them to buy, but I feel like I have to try.

After I created all the different sections, I will concentrate on the books that sell: this Saturday, for instance, sold Vonnegut, Robbins, Kerouac, Palahniuk, the usual suspects.

The rest if just going to be harder to sell. But, I'm hoping I can create enough of an atmosphere of books to make it easier to sell those books.

Without breaking the budget.

Duncan McGeary said...

Oh, and it isn't so much that I lose interest when I don't spend money as to when I don't make changes and improvements.

Even if they are small incremental improvements.

It's the doing nothing at all that bores me.

I need a new lease so I can feel secure in doing what I need to do, but with the economy the way it is, I don't want to rush it.

Kinda stuck in uncertainty.

Jason said...

Happy birthday!