In today’s lackluster retailing landscape, many booksellers are using impending lease renewals as a time to re-evaluate their businesses. While some, like Bennett Books in Wyckoff, N.J., will close when their lease ends on September 30, others, like 71-year-old Robin’s Bookstore in Philadelphia will keep its main store open, which it owns, and close its bargain-book annex a few blocks away when that lease expires at the end of next month.
“We are consolidating for a new and better effort,” said owner Larry Robin, whose grandfather founded Robin’s, the city’s oldest independent bookstore, in 1936. “It hasn’t been a great six months for us, but it hasn’t been disastrous. I’m feeling fairly positive and expanding into certain kinds of online stuff.” The changes he is contemplating include an upgrade of the store’s Web site (www.robinsbookstore.com) with author interviews and podcasts, as well as home delivery. The store will stock new books on the main floor; used, remainder and bargain titles upstairs. Robin’s does not discount.
For Robin, who has worked in the store since 1960, the key questions confronting booksellers today are: “What is an independent bookstore in the 21st century? How do we reinforce our position? What niche do we fill?” While Robin searches for answers, he is encouraged that the number of independent corner groceries springing up in Philadelphia could mean people are realizing the importance of supporting local businesses. “There is a growing mass of people who say, I want to shop at an independent store,” said Robin. “I smell a change coming.”