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SpecialistMichael, MS, CSCS
Category: General
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Experience:  Senior Information Specialist
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My wife owns a formerly successful bookstor that is being slowly

Customer Question

My wife owns a formerly successful bookstor that is being slowly crushed into extintion by Amazon. What types of brick and mortar stores are likely to be more sustainable in the years ahead and how could wi trasition into a business that will continue to prosper.
We live in a small but fairly affluent community in northern California with relativlely sophisticated population.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: General
Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


My suggestion would be a Cyber Cafe. People love to eat and if you have a place where they can come and use a Computer that you supply or bring their own, and serve food, you meed the best of two worlds.


Placing the Cyber Cafe would be strategic. I suggest locating close to a College campus or High school. Students would flock to a Cyber Cafe for the ability to use their computers, eat and study in a comfortable atmosphere.


This would also benefit the working office people who like to have acccess to a computer through lunch or breaks. Having WIFI access can even benefit you for those who use e readers and your nemisis Amazon becomes an ally with their E Readers


I hope this helps give you a direction to consider. Joan

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi Joan, I'm afraid the era of the cybercafe is already on the wane in our community. The vast majority of those with reliable incomes already have 24/7 internet access to tne internet with portable devices. also we have 4 years remaining on our lease. and the building is histori and cannot be modified for food service.



Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


The tecnnolology era is what is stable right now. Maybe somehow bringing the older book store into the newer generation by handling E Readers and Pads may be something that can work in conjunction with the old fashioned book store. You can handle anything that offers new technology, from the cell phones that do not require contracts: ie pay as you go phones from various carriers, to selling E Readers, as well as keeping books.


Supplies like chargers, auto chargers, phone cases, cases for Pads and E Readers, may also be added to the stock.


Another thought would be to set up a Cash for Gold center which are popping up all over the place where I live. They are doing a terrific business here in Florida.


My last thought would be a Wedding Planning store front. assist people with setting up all plans for having a wedding. Anything from Venues, Bakers, Catering, Clergy, Stationary etc.


If none of these ideas help, I am am afraid I may be at a loss to assist you. Joan

Expert:  SpecialistMichael replied 5 years ago.
What is it that truly sets your brick and mortar location apart from everything else in the area?

What advertising venues have you explored and/or exhausted to at least increase foot traffic?

Since you cannot modify your location for food, are you in touch with local cafes and small bakeries and deli's?
Expert:  Cher replied 5 years ago.
Hi Jeff, and welcome back to Just Answer.

I think the easiest thing to add to your already existing books (or to transform completely to a different type of store) would be a variety of gift items and perhaps discounted greeting cards. The gift items can range in price from basically novelty items, to more expensive and sophisticated gifts for men, women, children and babies. For example, unique stuffed animals, picture frames for all occasions, beaded bracelets and necklaces and even, if your wife is so inclined, gift baskets with coffees, teas, non-perishable food items, 'spa' accessories for both men and women (lotions, soaps, bath beads, shower gels, loofahs, etc.) and at appropriate times, holiday themed baskets. Most of these gift items can be ordered from wholesale distributors or directly from China, where it's less expensive to order in bulk.

I have such a store in my neighborhood and it does very well. Many people typically need to 'grab' a fast gift on the way to a celebratory event, party, etc., and if there's a nice variety in your store, they will always be able to find something appropriate for the recipient. You can offer gift wrapping, too.

I wish you and your wife much good luck with the store!

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Best regards,
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi Joan,

with due respect there ar unfortunately reasons why these suggestions are impracal for us. There are a Staples and a Radio Shack within a mile of us. This is the heart of the California gold mining counties, so there were many established gold traders here long before the Cash for Gold craze began. And Bridal shoppes aplenty. I think we need th get a little farther off the beaten track for this to work. One of the features of our location is that 20% of the stores, many of them owned by good friends of ours, have closed. All of these are highly intellegent, creative and experienced business people. We have all put many hours of thought and discussion into this and hve come op short. Only a really extraordinary idea is going to be of any use.

Thanks for your efforts,


Expert:  Cher replied 5 years ago.
Hi again, Jeff and thanks for requesting me.

This is 'Cher'; I'm the last expert who sent you an answer.

What did you think of my gift (and/or possible greeting card) shop idea? Would that type of inventory work for you in your location?

Best regards,
Expert:  SpecialistMichael replied 5 years ago.
I would strongly recommend focusing on exterior efforts along with symbiotic collaborations.

I have a background in a "niche"(which it seems your wife's store becoming) business and the way we reach what is an already small portion of the population is with perfectly timed specialized advertising, and separating us from "our Amazon". What I mean by this for you is to consider additional strong internet advertising and other "non local" advertising at least informing the reading crowd what exists. - its not like Amazon doesn't "store" locations, even if they are all drop shipped. If you can focus some efforts of breaching into the internet world of sales(even if it is a back office type of thing) you will be appealing to a large population that would never see your storefront unless they were in town.

Building a large "back office" with internet support is something not everyone wants to do, but can assist in moving pretty serious volumes of paper once you start appealing to the right people. Visiting forums and other online communities, getting set up as a vendor or something of that nature will assist tremendously - especially when they know its a brick and mortar setup with a genuine interest toward keeping the "bookstores" alive.

Another major consideration is to contact local and semi-local universities and schools and see what you could supply as far as books - even if it involves shipping. Professors and teachers would probably jump at the opportunity to browse a store or at least a catalog listing, providing you with potential business but your store would also open the door for them to further their supplemental readings. The next part, I would look into what it would take to supply some of these local schools with textbooks and their reading materials, or even the writing and office supplies. Businesses, no matter how electronic always need the basics: pens, paper, notebooks, ledgers, simple binders. If you can create pathways to supply the local(i sh) schools, businesses and offices with regular consumable goods then that is that much less you need to worry about as far as survival. There will more than likely be some phone hammering involved with this, and probably some pavement pounding but if its there and nobody knows, then everyone is missing out.

Book trade ins are a major source of repetitive income that allows students to purchase new books or used new books, without you needing to bring in new editions each year. Many schools will use a 4th Edition textbook, even if the 5th is out, because only the books chapters change places, the content(many times word for word) doesn't change.

Another effort I would strongly consider is collaborating with local shops, deli's, bakeries, coffee houses etc.. to see what they are willing to help with(with payment of course) to allow your wife and their stores to life and assist in customer base. I speak from experience in a very specialized trade that without this "ecosystem" type of relationship, the customers and the owners are missing out on some serious quality goods and services.

A example that immediately comes to mind is a sitting and reading area, possibly spread out around the store. Fresh hot coffees, just made, from the local coffee house, if a cooler is allowed maybe some fresh pastry or book reading food, coupled with enriching the entire experience. Allowing them to relax and enjoy what they are reading while also boosting your daily gross from the 30 muffins you sold, and the 30 cups of coffee, high production, quality turnover items that may feel "impulsey" but ultimately make the feeling of your store that much better which will lead to more word of mouth.

With specialized trades or businesses, especially those being taken by a volume industry like Amazon, symbiotic relationships and that "ecosystem" type of situation is something everyone benefits from, especially the customers.
SpecialistMichael, MS, CSCS
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 508
Experience: Senior Information Specialist
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