Home > Uncategorized > What Successful Stores are Doing Right

What Successful Stores are Doing Right

We’ve spent a lot of energy at this site talking about store closings, but what about the person reading this who is considering starting a store of their own?

If that’s you, then yes, we are an industry that faces many different challenges, but there are also stores that are not planning on closing this year; stores that are placing Christmas orders and even making plans for next Valentines and next Easter.

We don’t often give space here when it’s business as usual, but my advice would be this: Talk to the store owners and managers and ask them what they feel they’re doing right. As them, “What is it that’s keeping your store open while others are closing?”

…And here’s an idea if you’re considering opening a store. Instead of contacting suppliers and placing purchase orders, consider buying into the inventory (and history) of a couple of existing stores.*

Store owners: Would you be open to a stock split to help a store gain immediate access to a balanced and curated inventory with an instant history? If not, why not? It’s a win-win for both you and the prospective new store owner.

And if anyone dares, leave a comment on what you feel is keeping your store alive while others are closing. Is it something about your market, or is it your marketing, or just dumb luck?

*This is something I would be willing to do myself. It compresses several years of careful buying into one or two purchase orders for a new store, and the product already is priced!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 24, 2015 at 8:14 am

    As a consumer, I have always been turned off by the ‘niceness’ of Christian book stores. I’ve never seen one that was funky or cool or edgy or appealing to teens (or 51-year-old hipsters for that matter :P). I’ve been a Christian all my life but I haven’t been in a Christian book store for 15 years. To me, they just say ‘sterile, boring Christians within’. I think they might do well to appeal to the worldly world (Mark 16:15), not just preach to the choir. I wonder if having ИF posters or comedy videos from Godtube (or anything that turns heads) in the window might help their appeal? It’s not just inventory that’s an issue, it’s the dirty word ‘marketing’.

    • April 24, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Thanks for your response. It raises a few different issues, one of which we’ve discussed here, one of which we haven’t.

      We’ve seen experiments with the environments, such as the C28 stores. The problem with that approach is that you lose your largest-demographic customer, the 45-65 year old female. Rightly or wrongly, “Church people” pay the bills. Still, I think you can find ways to resonate with those customers; my own store has given prominent display space to many Next Generation authors, but my passion for doing this causes a lot eye-rolling from at least one staff member. I have a huge contemporary music department; we dive in when new bands are trending, and sometimes we get stuck with inventory, but sometimes (Rend Collective, All Sons and Daughters, I Am They) we’ve proven that our hunches were correct. We have a bargain Bible display right now that you can’t see because we’ve got t-shirts hung all over it.

      Which brings me to the other point. Our core products are books, DVDs and CDs. They come in square and rectangular packages. The only way to display them efficiently is on traditional shelving, and efficiency is necessary when you’re in survival mode. What we did with our little store, an hour east of Toronto, is to position ourselves as more of an Outlet Store, which left us the option to be “intentionally messy.” The centerpiece of this is an 8-foot ‘staircase’ display with product signage that more of a tribute to Honest Ed’s than anything else. (I’d love to do the whole store that way.)

      I am always open to ideas to appealing to the broader community, but find that first, you’ve got to get them in the doors, and get the conversation started. We do that by advertising in some local and regional publications; one of which is pretty weird and we always question giving them revenue; but it’s the audience we want to reach.

      We pulled the TV monitor from our store three years ago. Preparing content, and having staff available to keep it playing were two of the problems. I’d love to return to this however. Someone at David C. Cook sent us two copies of an instore play DVD that’s used in the U.S. We were going to take it to a coffee house thing, but got stuck, as one clip would be rap artists and the next clip would be Gaithers. I just don’t have a budget to do the necessary editing.

      But keep the ideas coming. If you’re interested, feel free to write something for us as a guest post.

    • Jim Taylor
      April 27, 2015 at 9:16 am

      I like the idea of putting the TV in the window. Given the static nature of most store fronts, it would be the most attention grabbing thing on the typical block. A selection of subtitled music videos and movies would work best, so people outside had a better idea of what was going on and be drawn to stop, watch and come in. Also, in the months before Faith went under we were experimenting with streaming contemporary worship playlists off of YouTube on one of our TVs and people seemed to like it. However, if you want to try this, first install Ad-Block Plus, as the commercials that YouTube plays before some videos are probably not something you want playing in your store.

      • April 27, 2015 at 1:22 pm

        The video monitor could work well, even though there’s no sound. In some downtown areas, I would check municipal bylaws to make sure there’s no conflict, and I’d want to know the monitor itself can handle direct sunlight, as in my type of store, we’d get that in the afternoons.

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