Books-A-Million moved into the used book business five years ago with the opening of its first 2nd & Charles store in September 2010 in Hoover, Ala., just outside the company’s headquarters in Birmingham. Since then, BAM has steadily expanded the concept with nearly 30 new 2nd & Charles stores, predominantly in the South and Midwest. There’s a 2nd & Charles location as far north as Michigan, as well as a few stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. Last month, BAM held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its newest 2nd & Charles location, in the Mall of Georgia in Buford.
BAM executives declined to discuss plans for 2nd & Charles, so PW visited the store in Gainesville, Fla., to find out more about the chain and its target demographic. Like several other 2nd & Charles locations, the Gainesville store had originally been a Books-A-Million outlet. In August 2015, according to the Gainesville Sun, the city issued a permit for BAM to do $350,000 in interior renovations to transform the outlet into a 2nd & Charles. The renovated store, which opened last November, has a bright, open layout with a big-box feel. It contains a broad range of used books, along with used CDs, DVDs, vinyl, musical instruments, video games and gaming systems, and iPads.
On a Thursday morning in February, the Gainesville 2nd & Charles store was humming. Though the city is a university town, this location’s customer base is bigger than just the local student population. A group of older women perused titles in the fiction aisles, while a middle-aged couple checked out a wall of guitars and a father and his toddler daughter leafed through picture books in the children’s section.
The customers are diverse, according to a 2nd & Charles associate at the register, who has been working at the store since it opened. “This place attracts all ages,” she said. “We’re near a high school, so when school lets out, teens come over and head right to the video games. Teachers come in, and they’re able to get all of their books for the classroom for more than half off. It’s a really good mix. We meet everyone’s needs in a way.”
The associate attributed part of the store’s appeal to its buy-back program. Customers can bring in used books and other merchandise for store credit, up to three bins full at a time. “So far business has been really good,” the associate said. “Everybody has been loving the whole buy-back section.”
During the PW visit there was a steady line at the buying counter, which is in the front of the store. Customers dropped off items at the counter when they arrived. Most shopped while employees sifted through their merchandise and tallied their credit.
The associate also noted that customers generally seem to be drawn to the nonbook sections of the store. “People love the fact that we have actual movies and CDs because not many places sell them anymore,” she said. “Everybody likes how we sell a mix of everything.”
In the books section of the store, the associate said, nonfiction tends to be popular among older customers, and the children’s aisles are consistently busy. “There are always parents with their kids over there,” she said. “The kids section is crazy popular.” As for genre fiction, romance seems to be one of the store’s least-popular sections. “At least as far as I’ve noticed, it’s not too touched on,” she said. “And I’m here every single day.”