Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inventory, inventory, inventory.

There's an old saying that the 3 most important things in business are: Location, location, location.

I'd have to say, the 4th thru 6th most important things are: Inventory, inventory, inventory.

There's an ongoing saga on a website I check out about a woman opening a bookstore.  So far, all the news has been about everything but...well, what she is going to sell.  Fixtures, insurance, location, all those kinds of things.

Now she's bemoaning that she may not have enough inventory to start.

I think she would have been better off starting off with the inventory, and then all that other stuff.  But no one does it that way.  They are more interested in the "looks" than the "content."

If you have great books, you can sell them on concrete floors off of milk crates with a cigar box for a cash register.  If you have great books, people will be looking at your books, not the age of the carpet, or the dings in the fixtures.  Let the books themselves be your atmosphere, your looks.

The other problem with this complaint of "not enough inventory" is that there are solutions.  Buy one of each book you want (you can replace any book in a day or two).  Start off with a used book selection in part of your store.  Used books are easy to get.  Just ask a used book dealer if he has any "extras" and I can almost guarantee he'll have a bunch he can sell pennies on the dollar.

There are also all kinds of "Remainder" houses.  There are huge amounts of mid-list books that you can buy at a high discount.  Even better, there are some really blue chip books that become available.

So there is no reason to open your store without a selection of books.  If you buy at full price, say, 25% of your books to start with, and make sure they are front and center, no one will notice that the books behind them are mid-list books.  They'll see your "good" books and assume that the other books are "good" for someone else.

She's right though about the danger of opening with too skimpy a selection.  People will judge you fast, and may not come back for a long time.

So start with as much inventory as you can afford, and use most of your budget on lower cost books to start with, and then build the more blue-chip selection.

We have some excellent bookstores here in Central Oregon.  Paulina Springs, and Sunriver books both do an excellent job of inventorying their stores.  The Open Book has a great selection of books, and so does my wife's store, The Bookmark.

And my store has as many books as I can pack in.  Because a basic rule of thumb I've discovered is -- the more inventory you have, the more you'll sell.

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