For the latest edition of the Great American Bargain Book Show (GABBS), held March 14–17, the organizers partnered with Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) in their new location at the AmericasMart Atlanta. With over 250,000 titles on the floor, 375 booksellers present, and a 15%–18% increase in attendance from 2012, this year’s show was up in spirit and numbers. Larry May, founder and president of GABBS, said, “Attendance was up because of our partnership with SIBA and AmericasMart. The bricks-and-mortar book industry must have forward thinking in order to have a continual influence in the marketplace. That includes the selling of bargain books, frontlist, sidelines, and gifts.”
“Bringing GABBS and SIBA and the AmericasMart together in one place helps retailers diversify,” noted SIBA executive director Wanda Jewell as she kicked off SIBA’s Day of Education. The March 14 sessions centered on demystifying school sales, gift purchases, and collectibles, as well as how to add used books to the mix and make them profitable in stores of all sizes.
Richard Buthod, sales manager of Turtleback Books, St. Louis, presented on Common Core standards and how booksellers can gain school sales. “The right time to start selling to schools is 10 years ago. The second best time is today,” he said. He had suggestions for booksellers on how to understand school funding, how to decide who to put in charge of school sales, and how to avoid giving away the store in chasing a sale.
Gifts were a big part of this year’s show, as the event coincided with AmericasMart’s Gift and Home Show. Kim Saltzstein, gift buyer for Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., always seeks gifts that help tell a story. For her, it’s vital that gifts have a flow and lend a treasure-hunt feel to the bookstore. She looks for a theme, and blends gifts with books; gifts account for 33% of Changing Hands’ sales.
Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, noted in her March 16 morning session on Adding Volume & Interest to Your Shelves and More, “I think people need fresh and new in our store, and that’s what I’m looking to do.” Used and remaindered books account for 20%–25% of Changing Hands’ sales. Shanks sought interesting and curious books at GABBS for her store.
GABBS’s reputation for quality bargain books brought booksellers from across the pond, with Andrew Rattray of Bookmark Remainders coming from Cornwall, England, and Ediciones Zeta’s Jorge Zavaleta, the furthest traveler, arriving from Lima, Peru. Rattray came in search of arts-and-crafts books and noted he may be the only bookseller with a booth who buys more than he sells. Zavaleta learned of the show from the Internet, and he hoped to find a good quantity of children’s and comic books for his 14 stores.
ABA’s CEO Oren Teicher held an open forum for booksellers on March 14, and the conversation quickly turned to “shop local” campaigns, how to fill the hole left by Borders in towns seeking independent bookstores, and the importance of active marketing campaigns. Friday morning Teicher presented the “Top Ten Things You Must Do Now,” providing booksellers with feedback from 150 bookstores polled about their most successful ideas. The musts for bookselling were as follows: review your credit card bill, promote local authors, open your store to meetings, reach out to kids, recruit volunteers, partner with local media, understand inventory, optimize your Web site, and communicate with customers. As for the #1 thing retailers should be aware of: “Always know what’s selling elsewhere.”
The GABBS-SIBA collaboration was enough of a success that the two organizations are planning to partner again in 2014.