Bull Moose, a Maine and New Hampshire–based retailer known for its music, movie, and video game selection, is steadily becoming one of the region’s largest retailers of books. On August 9, the company announced plans to move its Lewiston, Maine store, and increase its footprint, tripling its size to 8,000 sq. ft. The new location, set to open in the fall, will feature 2,000 sq. ft. dedicated to books.
The emphasis on books is part of a company-wide shift that has impacted eight of Bull Moose's 12 locations. The effort began in 2010, with the company's Bangor location. “We made a big push into books,” said Bull Moose CFO Chris Brown. “We kind of knew there is a person who likes to have their culture embodied in some artifact, that they like to collect things.”
Brown said the pivot to books was successful partly because of similarities between contemporary bookselling and way the retail music industry once operated. “When we started selling books, we noticed that the publishing industry was run how the music industry was run 20 years ago, with lots of reps and personal contacts. [In both businesses you also had] a large corporate presence, and a good community of independent stores.”
In 2017, the 150-employee company joined that community of independent stores by becoming a member of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. Brown said he has no plans to rebrand the business around books, since it is already known as a multimedia retailer to its northern New England clientele.
Each Bull Moose store carries a mix of used books (60%) and new titles (40%). The company buys new stock directly from publishers; it acquires used stock from customers. In addition, Brown said the store does offsite event sales and works with libraries.
Book and merchandise buyer Chelsea Berry said that given the store's large music selection, music books sell steadily, "but it's not our most successful genre." Instead, the store has found the most eager readership in young adult, children’s, fantasy, and science fiction books.
Brown believes there is still room to grow, given the regional preferences of readers for a physical store with multiple kinds of portable media. While focused in the near-term on the Lewiston move, he always has an eye out for other possible new locations, and thinks the region can support it. "It's not just like retail elsewhere," said Brown. "Maine and New Hampshire are artsy places and art matters here."