The third joint outing between the Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance and the Great American Bargain Book Show, held last week, led to a bigger turnout for both SIBA's day of member programming, and GABBS's trade show.

Wanda Jewell, SIBA’s executive director, said attendance increased by about one-third over last year, with 38 attendees coming out for the organization’s daylong educational program, on March 12. “Every year it’s a little bigger than the year before,” she said. “I’m very happy with what we deliver and that’s what I try to focus on.”

Larry May, founder of GABBS, said attendance for the entire festival – 422 attendees total – was up 5% over last year. The showroom also boasted 40 exhibitors with around 40,000 titles available to buyers. GABBS ran from March 13-15 in Atlanta and was preceded by the one-day SIBA event.

The weekend is “a one-stop shop,” Jewell said. “This is an opportunity where education, bargain books and gifts are all available for one weekend. There’s a team of booksellers here who know those things really well and are offering the education that they know. This show offers a way into that bargain book and gift market where, I think, the margins are better and I think it helps the overall bottom line.”

SIBA has long been involved with GABBS, but when the bargain book show rebranded three years ago, it reached out to the organization to “formalize” its affiliation, May said. “I saw a need in this arena for education,” he said, nodding to other regional shows and BookExpo America, which pair trade shows with education for booksellers. “I wanted to combine those two things.”

“Wanda embraced bargain books long before any of the other regional groups did,” May said. “If you are a new trade store and you’re not doing any bargain books at all, there’s probably a problem. The blending of all this – trade books, bargain books and gifts – is really important for bookstore survival.”

In addition to hearing addresses by ABA CEO Oren Teicher and Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, senior program officer, during the SIBA education day, the ABA facilitated an open forum where booksellers discussed a variety of topics, from point-of-sales systems to the upcoming May 2 Independent Bookstore Day.

SIBA also inducted two new board members over the weekend – Linda Marie Barrett, general manager of Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, N.C. and Erica Merrell, co-owner of Wild Iris Books in Gainesville, Fla. This was the first SIBA springtime event that Merrell has attended, and she said she loves “the solidarity among frustrated bookstore owners.” She added, “I’m really grateful to be a part of SIBA. I’m always really excited to see educational opportunities like this. There was a lot of nurturing and a lot of solidarity. It was a great experience.”