Following the close of the fourth joint outing between the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and the Great American Bargain Book Show, held last week in Atlanta, the trade show’s founder, Larry May, said the event will likely find a new home in 2017.
Each year, the show is held concurrently with the AmericasMart Atlanta Spring Gift, Home Furnishings and Holiday Market. Usually held over a weekend, this year, for the first time, the market took place during the week, Wednesday, March 3 through Friday, March 5. GABBS followed suit, booking its show for the same dates. SIBA in the Springtime, the trade organization’s annual Day of Education for its members, preceded GABBS by one day.
Though he still needs to run the official numbers, May said that vendor pre-registration was up about 6% this year. However, vendor no-shows were higher than expected, at about 30%. Vendor attendance at AmericasMart was down about 40% percent.
The number of book buyers remained about the same, May said, and they were intent on making purchases. “The people writing orders seemed to be writing more high quality orders,” May said, noting that, for the first time, Baker & Taylor sold orders at the show. “They were pretty busy,” May said.
Still, a move could be in the trade show’s future. The show currently runs in a 42,000 square foot space. At this point, though, May said it doesn’t need more than 25,000 square feet as the number of vendors attending GABBS has dropped significantly over the past decade. “We’ve had a 63% attrition rate of exhibitors primarily because they’re no longer in business,” he said. “There’s not a lot of retailers left in the business selling these kinds of books.”
He’ll need to analyze attendance data as well as feedback from vendors and buyers before making any decisions, he said. GABBS will look at new locations within the Atlanta area, but he’s not opposed to moving to a new city. So far he’s considering Knoxville or Nashville and possibly Newark, N.J. He’s uncertain how a move north will affect the show’s relationship with SIBA. He plans on discussing any possible changes with the organization’s executive director, Wanda Jewell. “SIBA is of the utmost importance for us,” May said. “It’s a very important relationship for both of us.”
The number of SIBA members attending workshops, about 40, was flat compared to last year, Jewell said. Prior to a workshop presentation, she said she hopes to eventually attract booksellers from other parts of the country, turning it into a national event.
SIBA members who made it to Atlanta got a look at the results of ABACUS South, which breaks down data from the American Booksellers Association’s annual members-only survey to help booksellers improve their business operations and profitability.
Children’s author Kate DiCamillo was a guest speaker at the event as her forthcoming title, Raymie Nightingale, is the first children's book selected for SIBA's One Book One South program. She read an essay about her childhood growing up in Florida and spoke to how books connect people.
“When we read together. When a grandfather reads to a grandchild. When a teacher reads to a classroom. When a mother reads to a child. When a sister reads to a brother. When everyone in a town in the south reads the same book silently together, we’re taken off the horrible rock of our aloneness,” she said. “We’re brought back inside together. We see the world together. We see each other, connect, and when we connect, we’re changed.”
The annual ABA-led spring forum touched upon a number of bookselling issues from e-commerce to building relationships with smaller presses. First-time attendee, Kiren Michael Valjee, who will open Third House Books in Gainesville, Florida this spring, said the workshops and networking opportunities were invaluable. “One of the biggest things is its bringing up things that I don’t think I would have thought about or things I would have unfortunately stumbled across that created a stress management problem. Now I know these things exist,” he said. “Connecting with other bookstores and sellers helps you realize that you’re not alone. Sometimes you get so narrow focused on your own project that you forget there are other people who have already done this.”