At a time when e-books and e-tailers are capturing a greater portion of the bricks-and-mortar book market, sidelines have become essential for filling the void formerly occupied by books—and keeping cash registers ringing. So much so that when Eileen McGervey opened One More Page in Arlington, Va., in January, she knew that she wanted to have not just books but also wine and chocolate. “That was for people to have multiple reasons to come into the store,” she explains. So far, it’s paying off. Her book sales have been strong, and she’s bringing in more bottles of wine than some restaurants.
Established bookstores have long been attuned to the value of offering more than books. At Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., gifts account for one quarter of sales, according to buyer Autumn Orndorff. The ratio is even higher at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., which has a 70/30 book and gift split. “We give our sidelines a lot of room because they have been very profitable for us,” says Vroman’s head gift and stationery buyer, Natalie Esser, for whom price point is not a factor as long as the quality is there. Even children’s stores like Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop in LaVerne, Calif., which has sold toys from the start, have begun expanding their inventory to include clothing and other sidelines for adults.
To find out what nonbook items are working best, PW spoke with a baker’s dozen of booksellers. They discussed both the tried and true as well as new sidelines that could become modern classics like Bananagrams, which launched at the London Toy Fair five years ago.
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass.
According to manager and co-owner Dana Brigham, sidelines have continued to grow since they got their own “wing” in 1997. They now make up more than 20% of sales. “The original tagline was, From the Sublime to the Ridiculous,” says Brigham, who is willing to try just about everything but wind chimes. On the sublime side, Booksmith stocks laptop bags, scarves, and home accessories. But one of her favorites is the store’s first sideline, Squirting Goldfish from Accoutrements. “We like to surprise and have a sense of humor,” says Brigham, who has gotten photos from customers on vacation with their goldfish. One local blogger posted a photo of hers swimming in her washing machine/mini-koi pond.
Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz.
“We definitely try to have a lot of things for lots of different people,” says gift buyer Autumn Orndorff. Among the store’s favorites are goofy hats that customers like to try on and snap photos of each other wearing. But this fall, after attending the Dallas Gift Show, Orndorff’s trying some new kitchen items. Two display units carry rollup Vapur Anti-Bottles, SlipperGenie cleaning slippers from Evriholder for adults and kids, and other household products. Many of the sidelines are up front in the store. For Orndorff they soften the “hard lines of books.” To identify bestselling gifts and make sure they are available, she restocks daily.
Copperfield’s Books, Sebastopol, Calif.
“I have a different challenge in that we have six stores in small towns, and I’m the only buyer. We try to make it varied so people get everyday things and gifts,” says Sharon Rompelman, sidelines buyer, who tries to keep prices low. “Having grown up here, I know what people will pay.” She changes sidelines displays every month. “More often is more work,” says Rompelman. “Too long, and the customer gets tired of it.” There are several sideline vendors who she says are her equivalent of Random House and Simon & Schuster: Pomegranate Communications, Seltzer Goods, Galison, Buckyballs, Palm Press, Mudlark, University Games, Green Toys, and Chronicle Books (gift division).
Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C.
Jill Hendrix founded Fiction Addiction as a used bookstore 10 years ago and added new books and sidelines in 2006. At the SIBA fall show, she discovered All Things Small pendants with images of books. “We tried them for a Nicholas Sparks offsite event. He doesn’t sign any of his backlist, so we thought we’d sell them,” says Hendrix. It worked so well that she’s planning to order a mix of necklaces featuring classic titles to stock regularly.
The Globe Corner Bookstore, www.globecorner.com
Since Pat and Harriet Carrier closed their store in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass., earlier this year, they continue to sell travel books and products online. Wall maps have always been an important part of their inventory, both for travelers and for immigrants who want a map of their home country. Pat recommends that booksellers, even small ones, consider carrying wall maps. “A small opening order of a dozen maps could put you into the business,” he says. “You don’t need a lot of space. The ideal is if you have some space to put the maps up.” Plus, he notes, it’s Kindle-, Nook-, and iPad-proof.
Ingram Book Company, LaVergne, Tenn.
Mary McCarthy, director of merchandising at Ingram Content, says that sidelines pay off when booksellers give them the same attention that they give a favorite novel, and price them well. Her recommendation: “a penny less than insulting.” Ingram has a bookstore and at a recent open house more than 300 associates voted on their favorite sideline. The winner was SmartLab’s Recon 6.0 Programmable Rover ($69.99), winner of a 2011 Parents magazine Best Toy Award. Kids can program it to deliver a soda or yell at their brother or sister to stay out of their room. “All the SmartLab items are terrific,” says McCarthy.components/article_pagination.html not found (No such file or directory)