Thursday, September 16, 2010

Godzilla dustballs 3.

My employees reactions to these kinds of changes is always a bit funny.

First of all, they're always extremely doubtful I can pull it off.

Secondly, most people like things the way they were when they first saw them. Especially, EMPLOYEES like it the way it's always been. I call it the rubber band effect.

(This is true of writing, as well. You read a chapter to someone, and then come back with a revised chapter, and most of the time the listeners will say they liked the first version better. Because it's what they heard first, I guess.)

But, I just have to keep the faith that I am actually improving things, both objectively and subjectively. Eventually, like I said, the store will get that 'lived-in' look, the look that says, 'everything in it's place, and a place for everything.'

It just takes awhile.

At first, it can be rather disorienting. Jasper was saying that one of fixtures was obscuring the line of sight. I just looked at him, and said, " was already that way."

Thing is, once you start changing things around, it casts doubt on everything else. Everything starts to look new -- or out of place. It's like staring at a word for too long, and the letters just become a jumble.

This is both good and bad. It highlights material that people haven't noticed before -- but it is also a disquieting feeling, and you really don't want too much of that. People shy away from changes -- I've always noticed that sales go down when I'm doing makeovers. Not because we're not available to help; not because we have less inventory or that it's harder to get at.

Just because of the change itself.

I'm not sure if it's because they don't want to bother you (Yes! Please bother us with your money!) or because they aren't seeing their stuff in the same place. It's dangerous to make changes, but if they are good changes, eventually people come around to seeing it that way.

Or -- eventually -- it just becomes the normal, again.

(Yes, crew. I'm talking to YOU. Trust me. You'll like it.)

Meanwhile, Matt made a suggestion that I use the new bookcase on the graphic novel side to have "Staff Picks."

So we're going to try that for awhile. I picked Rocketeer: "A fun Adventure, Great Dave Stevens Art, and best of all --- Bettie!" And I picked, AMERICAN VAMPIRE: "Uncute Undead. And written by Stephen King!"

Cameron picked POWER GIRL: (from memory) "Cheesy Fun, and great art."

I now have 3 fresh bookcases on the book side, and I'm trying to decide which categories it would be best to show face out: I'm thinking fantasy art of the fairy-tale realm; Pop Culture art (book covers and so on, cult work from the 50's and 60's); and 3 shelves for my mainstream art and movie books, and 3 shelves for Overstock Artbooks. Something like that. Won't really know until I do it.

So the question that keeps coming up in my mind is: Will this result in higher sales?

The answer, I suspect, it not so much. At least not at first.

But it will FEEL so much better, and that is very, very important to me.

I'd have to say, the change is more a "Shoring Up" than anything.

I was thinking about how a store is like a dike holding back a river-- it needs to be fairly strong across the whole width of the span, or it doesn't work. One weak spot, and the whole thing cracks.

I've never been one of those who thought you should carry "Best-Sellers" only. This seems like a short-sighted strategy for all kinds of reasons. Like making one part of the dike higher and stronger than the rest of the dike. So I tend to take whatever 'extra' money I have to spend to try to shore up the weaker elements of the store. Try to lift the category into a viable position. And keep trying.

The only other alternative is to remove the product and replace it with something else.

But for reasons of diversity and design and being a specialty store, I think it's important to not have too many Dead Zones. And not to narrow it down to what's currently hot. You need to have mid-list stuff; the long-tale theory of retailing.

But, like I said, in the end it comes down to the FEEL.

Casey, my U.P.S. driver thought it looked "Tight" in the slang meaning -- sharp. I heard someone say it looked more like a "mall store." (I think that's good -- I'm not too worried about losing the Funk.) Most people thought it felt "roomier..."

Of course, to all this I replied: "Right Answer." They knew what I was wanting.

There were also a whole lot of folks who simply didn't notice the changes at all. Or just noticed that 'something' seemed a little different. Like shaving your beard off -- "Did you change something?"

I filed the science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, and there isn't an urgent need to get more. Mysteries need more fill-in, and I've decided to just order all my favorite authors. Most of the other categories just need to be incrementally improved in selection. By Jan. 1, I want to have a complete ordering plan; one that is sustaining (easy and routine) and up-to-date and within budget.

One final reason for the changes.

It's Fun!

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