Brodart Company may be best known to booksellers and other retailers for its archival book jacket covers, but the scope of this company extends far beyond covers to include used and new books, supplies and furniture. For libraries, Brodart carries an inventory of 225,000 titles and two million books for lease or purchase in shelf-ready condition (meaning they are catalogued and processed with borrowers' cards, spine labels and bar codes). Though libraries constitute a major part of Brodart's market, its business with booksellers is growing. The company also owns Stacey's Bookstore, a leading bookseller in San Francisco and Cupertino, Calif.
Preserving the Value of Books
Brodart's Office Products division sells book jacket covers, display products, carts and supplies to booksellers and other retailers. "Antiquarian and out-of-print book dealers were the first booksellers to purchase our book jacket covers," sales manager Susan Winterle told PW. "Sellers of new books have found that Brodart's book jacket covers can help protect their books from shop wear that sends new books to the bargain table. Art and photography books are especially good candidates for protection."
Book Barn, a seller of used and remaindered books in Wells, Maine, uses archival covers to protect books jackets. "Ninety percent of the value of a book is in the jacket, especially for collectible fiction," co-owner Harry Polizzi explained. "The covers help books retain value." Book Barn also sells Brodart's plastic covers to its customers.
A New Home for Yesterday's Bestsellers
A library may lease dozens of copies of the latest John Grisham or Stephen King novel through the Brodart McNaughton Leasing program. But what happens when these blockbusters complete their popular run and are shipped back to Brodart? Using a recycling strategy developed more than 50 years ago, Tartan Book Sales, a division of Brodart, now sells between 500,000 and one million used hardcover library books each year to booksellers, libraries and individuals. Recently, the Internet has become an effective sales channel for Tartan, with 30%—40% of sales coming from online transactions.
Tartan books are sold "as is," with covers and library card pockets intact. For an additional 50 cents per volume, books can be professionally cleaned, removing the clear jacket, library labels and pockets, pencil marks and excess glue. Cleaned books, with dust jackets intact, are "in almost perfect condition," according to Shawn Knight, Tartan sales manager.
Books can be ordered by title, with no minimums, at 90% off publisher's list price; for example, The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, published last year, with a list price of $25.95, is available through Tartan for $2.60. "A majority of our books are sold by title," said Knight.
Changing Hands, a large, general independent store in Tempe, Ariz., shelves new and used books together. Some 45% of its revenues are from new books and 35% from remaindered and used books, with the balance from sidelines such as calendars. The store orders by title from Tartan and is able to sell recycled books at a 40%—50% margin, according to co-owner Bob Sommer. Selling remainders and used books does affect sales of new books, but Sommer finds many positive aspects. "We gain new customers by selling remaindered and used books," he told PW. "If you can get customers into the store, they'll come back."
Dean Lynch of the Book Cellar (part of the P&K Bookstores chain), a remainder bookstore in Rehoboth Beach, Del., orders books from Tartan by title and arranges them in a large, tiered display. Advertised as "recycled library books," they are offered at "three for $20." "It's our top-selling item, and accounts for 15%—18% of our sales," said Lynch.
Tartan also sells books in bulk, in boxed and skidded general assortments, and in quantities of 250 or more. Tartan selects the books, but customers may specify broad categories such as fiction or nonfiction. For an order of 250 books, 2001 titles are priced at $1.75 each. Large-print editions cost $1.75 each for quantities of 100 or more. "We sell bestselling titles, and our customers are comfortable with our bulk assortments," Knight told PW. "Bookstores buy in bulk for their sidewalk sales and do very well. We also sell in bulk to the major chain stores."
In addition to used books in good condition, Tartan also sells slightly damaged books at an average of 50 cents per book for a bulk order of 500. Before books are added to Tartan's inventory, the staff categorizes them by condition. Damaged, salable books may have a stain or a bent page. Books with broken bindings, pen marks or obscured words are usually relegated to the scrap heap.
The Book Depot orders Tartan books by title and in bulk and sells its wares principally at the Manahawkin Mart, a year-round flea market in a resort area of New Jersey. "We sell books for the beach—last year's hardcover bestsellers at the same price as new paperbacks," owner Tom Steadman said. "We get a lot of repeat customers."
Tartan has recently started offering new books from Brodart's overstocks, including excess inventory and out-of-print books that didn't sell to libraries. Most books are one or two years old, with pricing set at 25% off list or lower.
In addition to its catalogue and online channels, Tartan has an outlet store in Williamsport, Pa., that sells recycled books, overstocks and new, current titles. Three times a year, the store holds a weeklong "buck-a-book" sale. For the first day, Tartan invites local librarians to stock up and, later, welcomes the general public. Tens of thousands of books are sold in a week, said Knight. The next sales event is scheduled for October (for information, see www.tartanbooks.com).
Another division of Brodart is Stacey's Bookstore in San Francisco's financial district. With an inventory of 150,000 books, the store occupies three floors and 26,000 square feet. Stacey's also has a store in Cupertino in Silicon Valley. A third store in Palo Alto closed in January 2001 after 40 years of business.
Stacey's opened in 1923 with a focus on medical books, expanding in 1946 to include technical and professional titles. In the 1960s, the store began offering general-interest books. In 1968, Brodart acquired Stacey's, based on an interest in its medical book distribution business. (Stacey's is no longer involved in that business.)
Stacey's continues to offer strong collections in the areas of medical, technical and business, balanced by broad offerings in fiction, travel, cooking, history and biography, according to the store's general manager, Tom Allen. The store has a sophisticated customer base of professionals in the financial district. Corporate accounts make up about 10% of sales. With a growing residential population in the area, Stacey's is also a neighborhood bookstore.
The primary bricks-and-mortar competitor is Borders Books and Music, several blocks away, but Stacey's biggest competitive threat comes from online booksellers. Still, Stacey's continues to thrive because of its prime location, comprehensive selection and veteran staff. "We give experienced, careful service to our customers," Allen told PW.
Stacey's purchases used books from its sister company, Tartan Book Sales, for sidewalk sales that are held two or three times a year, ordering 3,000 to 4,000 books by title for each sale. Books are typically priced at $4 each, or three for $10. "Customers are very enthusiastic," said Allen.