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Trendspotting

Some products offer more assurance of long-term viability.

Some products offer more assurance of long-term viability.

One of the battles we face in retail in knowing when to get in to a current fad, how deep to get in, and when to start getting out. Say what you will about lotteries, but retail buying is also legalized gambling.

We had a slow sales period in our store for the past two weeks and we’re wondering if that might be colouring — pun intended, just wait for it — our view on certain sections of our store, but we always worry about the dangers of getting in too deep on particular inventory. For example:

Colouring Books This product group didn’t exactly happen overnight, but it was a lot easier when there were only a handful of products. Once you’ve got one of these in your home, you’ve got your work cut out for you, so it could be awhile before you run out of blank diagrams. Or have we seen this category crash and burn?

First Communion and Confirmation – The interesting facet to this is that many stores are owned and managed by Evangelicals who aren’t always tuned in to the dates for these sacramental occasions; dates which may change from year to year. At the local level, things may come to an abrupt halt, though thankfully there are always gifts needed for out-of-town events, as well as people who give belatedly.

Amish Fiction – This category seems to be holding its own though not necessarily growing. Fiction generally is a tough sell in many of our stores, though the suspense genre seems to still be building. Like the colouring books, there’s simply so much Amish product from which to choose.

Tie-In Products – Just because the movie did well, it doesn’t mean the related books, or calendars, or music soundtrack will do as well. Or just because the core title did well, it doesn’t mean the spinoffs will. (For example, other books by Sarah Young don’t perform much in our store; people just keep requesting the original title to give away.) On the other hand, if the movie or core title is recognizable, at least the ancillary items are their own shelf-talker; no hand-selling is necessary.

…So here’s a fun homework exercise:

  1. Go to the CBA Top 50 list (or any other similar chart) and print a copy.
  2. Draw a line through all the colouring books (or similar items you see as trending).
  3. Draw a line through all the tie-in product (right now War Room is represented in many places).
  4. Draw a line through all the products that are spinoffs of an original brand leader.
  5. Cross out all the multiple listings — different ISBNs for different bindings — of a given title.

What you’re left with is your true list of titles to keep in stock, but remember, the list is itself a chart, so by definition you’re still looking at trending items, often new releases, and remember that the list takes no account of local area interest titles which may be important in the life of your bookstore.

What other categories and trends cause you to aim for caution?

 

 

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