Evidence of the strength of the used-book market was on display in Austin, Tex., where more than a dozen employees helped cut the ribbon on the newest Half Price Books on March 3.
The chain, which began in a Dallas Laundromat in 1972, now has more than 80 stores spread across 13 states in the South and Midwest, half of them in Texas.
As the chain continues to grow, so do the stores. The latest location is housed in a former supermarket; it has 20,000 square feet of sales floor and an initial inventory of 300,000 volumes, as well as tens of thousands of CDs, DVDs, videotapes and computer games. Unlike many new bookstores, there are surprisingly few sidelines. The new store replaces another Half Price Books store that was half the size and closed earlier this year.
Notable changes include better lighting, wider aisles and additional registers. The new location will also add an additional 15 employees to the 30 who were transferred from the previous store.
In addition to being bigger, the new store also incorporates a self-contained antiquarian store, which was previously housed in a tumbledown shack that sat in the parking lot of the old store.
To celebrate the opening, the store was giving away coupons worth 40% off of a single book, with further discounts available throughout the weekend. The strategy seemed to be paying off: within an hour of opening, lines for the registers extended to more than 50 people, and hundreds more milled about.
Since many Half Price stores are on just a single level, they are able to provide full-size grocery shopping carts for their customers, and a surprising number of people were pushing full shopping carts up to the register.
The area near the back of the store where used books are bought and sold was already buzzing. A pair of first-edition Neal Stephenson hardcovers were purchased by a browsing customer within 15 seconds of being unpacked and priced. One customer waiting in line had left work at his law firm early to take advantage of the opening-day sale. "I never shop online," he told PW. "Instead, I come here just to see what I might find."