When I was asked to write an article about why a bookstore should be selling bargain books, another question actually came to my mind first: “Why would you NOT sell bargain books in your store?” Maybe the reason this question popped into my head is because I have been selling bargain books to bookstores and various retail accounts for almost 20 years, but it is one that is worth exploring. From speaking with many booksellers over the years at numerous trade shows I have heard many concerns about bargain books, the most common being they will cannibalize front-list sales, don’t support the authors via royalties, are “used” and “dirty,” or bookstores don’t want to sell what someone else could not sell.
I will respond to all of these objections as I present to you the top three reasons why you should be carrying bargain books in your store.
1. Bargain books mean higher margins
The typical margin you get from the publisher is 50%. If you decide to give the title a discount to keep up with the sale prices on Amazon or one of the other large retail chains, you will continue to eat into that margin. And then there is your cost of pulling it off the shelves, packing it back up, and sending it back to the publisher for a credit if it does not sell. It might not have been a bad book; you may have just overestimated your market or could not compete with large retailers like Costco or Sam’s Club that are selling it at cost. From the research we have done with many of our customers, we can see that bargain books sell at a profit margin of anywhere from 60-75%.
Years ago, many stores would simply double their cost, add a bit for shipping, and price accordingly. However, with the great selection that is available and by testing their market by finding the right niche pricing, many retailers are finding the sweet spot for pricing is in the 65% margin range. Even with the slightly higher retail price, the “bargain” price is still such a great deal that their customers keep coming back for more. I am not telling you to convert your entire store over to bargain books (although you certainly could), but even if you dedicate just a table or two or a couple of shelves and create this “ongoing event” inside your store, you will soon see it is your store’s most profitable section. As one veteran bookseller once told me, the front-list product they carry is pretty much a break-even proposition, but bargain books are where the profit is!
2. Everyone loves a bargain
Bargain books give your customers more reasons to come to your store regularly. I am sure you have a loyal following of regular customers and avid readers who stop by every week or two to pick up something new to read, but you probably also have those customers who only show up when the newest book from their favorite author is on sale or they are just tracking the latest fad in books, like adult coloring books, for example. A vibrant, well-stocked bargain book section will create another reason for the money-savvy buyer to visit your store faithfully. And on this point I want to debunk the stigmas that bargain books are “damaged” or “used and dirty” books. Our bargain books are store returns and are in perfect selling condition. The only difference between bargain and brand new product is the small mark the publisher puts on either the top or bottom edge of the book to ensure the product cannot be returned to them for credit a second time. The books are otherwise in excellent condition, and with the great prices that your customers are getting, they won’t even notice that small mark! Book Depot will remove any price stickers from the books you order, give them a good wipe to remove any residue, and inspect them for damages (signs of wear, rips or cover bends) before shipping. Our damage claim for Book Depot customers is 0.07%! That is a staggering number. When you order from Book Depot, you can be confident that your books will be of the best quality and packed with care. Consider taking your two least productive sections in your store, downsizing them, and creating a vibrant, fast moving, value-priced book section in their place.
3. The selection is absolutely fantastic
Finally, I want to fill you in on all the great books you will find at Book Depot daily and also dispel some of the myths about why selling bargain books will cannibalize your front-list sales. As I have been selling bargain books for almost two decades I can confidently say that the selection, quality, and quantity of titles at Book Depot has never been better. We have over 50,000 titles across 56 different categories, and hundreds of titles being added daily that you can view on the “New Arrivals” page of our B2B website. Publishers are just like every other business in that they are under pressure to cut losses and increase profits. For many years some of the big publishers would not sell off their unsold titles, but that is all changing. What they are noticing is that bargain books are just a small part of this very large industry and it is not affecting their front-list demand by releasing some of these unsold or returned books.
So who benefits from this? The publishers now see some cost relief by selling their returned or unsold books, and the wholesalers benefit by getting lots of great books to resell to you, the book retailer, who is next in line to benefit by getting these titles to sell at a much lower price. Lastly, your customers will benefit by getting fabulous books at even better prices! The quality and quantity of the product is truly amazing. I could go on and on about all the great books we have in stock right now, but I think you would be better served to see for yourself by visiting our web site and browsing the new arrivals, or asking one of our sales representatives for a list of our bestselling titles.
Now that you can see all the benefits, what about that scary concept called cannibalization? Guess what? Bargain books do not cannibalize sales of front list product! Let me explain. We all have our favorite authors who we love to read and cannot wait until their next release is available. Would you risk waiting six months to a year after a new release to see if you might be lucky enough to pick up a bargain copy? Not likely! Even I have my favorite authors whose books I buy at the release date even though I know we will probably get a bargain copy of it someday. But here is the flipside of this view. Maybe there is a book or an author who you were interested in reading but never had the time or just could not justify spending the money on something you were not sure about. Imagine this now: you can pick up a copy from a great bargain table for only $5.99. Worth the risk? (Yes!) And if you really liked it, do you think you will pick up the new release when it comes out in September? How many loyal fans of authors may have been converted by picking up a bargain copy off a sale table? And once they are hooked, they will keep coming back for more, both front list and those unexpected finds on the bargain table. So now you have a happy customer, an additional sale that you might not have had before, and a new fan of an author who is going to likely buy their new releases going forward, which will benefit both the author and your store. What could be better than that? Are we not all trying to get more people interested in reading, trying new books and authors, and promoting the literary culture? I know bargain books are a vital component of that and I hope you will give them a try!