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Selling Sidelines

October 10, 2018

As booksellers, we all know that books are our bread and butter. We all have a great affection for book product—the smell, the feel, the comfort of having a book in our hands. We live and breathe books. Our customers come to our bricks-and-mortar store looking for that special feeling. But what if we could add some jam to that bread and butter? Seriously, who doesn’t like jam? Adding additional product lines to your overall assortment can significantly add a layer of “jam” to your bottom line!


At Book Outlet, our retail store in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, we have recently added many new non-book items to enhance our customers’ shopping experience. These product lines do not take away from our book product. Quite the opposite! These non-book product lines actually enhance the overall book shopping experience. We carry many different product lines, including greeting cards, toys, mugs, cozy socks, candles, candy, tote bags and many, many more. We do our best to cater to our core book customers and we look for non-book items we know our bookworm customers will love. We have also added smaller/lower priced non-book product, such as chewing gum, hand sanitizer, bookmarks, etc. around our cash line for impulse shopping! This increases the chances for these non-book items to become add-on purchases, which increases basket size, adding to your overall profitability. Last year, our non-book product represented 17% of our total sales in-store! Finding the perfect mix of non-book items along with great cross merchandising ideas are key to making a cohesive shopping experience.


Our team at our St. Catharines store has done a fabulous job in identifying non-book product lines that work well for our clientele. It is imperative that you identify successful product lines for your customers’ interests.


That being said, here are a few of our favorites:


Toy product:

Toys are a natural sideline to most product types. Many people shop either with their children or for their children. One brand we carry is Melissa & Doug. They have amazing products, such as puzzles, games, puppets, pretend play, and many others that will enhance your customers’ experience!



Okay, I know what you may be thinking. How the heck am I going to merchandise clothing in my bookstore? I am talking about scarves, socks, and yes, even T-shirts! We carry Out of Print product, which is perfect for the bookworm in your life who has read everything but would love anything that features their favorite book! From mugs to tote bags, this is excellent non-book merchandise for any bookstore.


Tea and Tea Product:

I don’t know many bookworms who do not enjoy a hot cup of tea while snuggled up reading their favorite book! We currently carry a line of tea product from Tea Forte. From loose-leaf tea to boxed tea, tea cups and tea pots, Tea Forte has it all!



I am an avid reader. I have blankets and throws throughout my entire house in all my favorite reading places. I have bought many of these items while shopping at my local bookstore (totally guilty!); therefore, I can attest that carrying this non-book product in bookstores works! We currently have a line of blankets and throws from NorthEast Fleece Company that customers have been very receptive to.


Lower priced impulse items (chewing gum, candy, hand sanitizer, wrapping paper, etc.):

We carry a number of different lower-priced product lines in our cash line-up and they sell consistently! These impulse products may not be the reason why a customer came into your store, but they sure do make a difference in the basket size and bottom line.


These are just some of the recent sideline products we have identified for our retail location. Don’t limit your search! There are many companies offering this type of product. Do your research. Get the best margins! Ensuring the non-book product you decide to sell meets your customer base is essential to its success at your store. Don’t know where to start? Ask your key customers what they’d like to see to enhance their shopping experience. Done right, sidelines will add another dimension/texture to your bookstore. They may even bring in a new customer who hasn’t purchased from your store in the past. They also make it possible to do more add-on selling and will keep customers in your store for longer periods of time, enticing them to buy more and ultimately adding revenue to your bottom-line!


Tracy Basnett

Category & Store Operations Director

Book Depot


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