How a Bookstore is Surviving Tough Times

| June 7, 2011 | Reply

[tweetmeme]The bookstore industry has been hit hard by the changing times.  Bookstores are slowly disappearing, and the industry climate remains dim and challenging. Bookstores now compete with online behemoths such as where the selection is very wide and varied, and oftentimes offer lower prices than the traditional type of bookstores.

Bookstores are also suffering from the growing popularity of digital books. Ebooks are gaining steam with the popularity of portable ebook devices such as Kindle, Nook and tablet devices such as iPad.  The International Digital Publishing Forum reports that sales of ebooks are on an upward trend  , indicating that users are starting to exchange hard cover books with digital formats.

As a result, many independent book sellers are closing shops.  Even the big bookstore chains are suffering: Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2011 and had to close a lot of their stores.

Given the tough economic climate, it is interesting to see how the small independent bookstores are coping – and surviving.

books & books bookstore

One small, independent bookseller that is continuing to grow is Books & Books in Florida. In an interview with the
Miami Herald newspaper, owner Mitchell Kaplan shares how his bookstore is bucking the trend:

“Instead of feeling victimized by what was happening in the marketplace, I decided to look at the value we’ve built up over the years and try to transfer it to other things. You have to find ways to monetize the value. Otherwise, you can’t stay relevant.”

As book sales shrink and bookstores close shop, Kaplan’s bookstore is going strong because he has managed to create multiple revenue streams, diversify and branch out to related businesses. His continued survival is a result of his calculated decision not to rely solely on book sales.

He continues to grow his business in a number of ways:

  • Expanded his in-store cafes
  • Entered in creative licensing deals
  • Doubled the bookstores’ special events
  • Increased the number of ancillary items for sales such as jewelry and decorative bowls
  • Sold ebooks on his website
  • Branched into convention book sales
  • Added more kids‘ book fairs
  • Worked on increasing corporate sales
  • Branched out to a new contract publishing business
  • Expanded to film to produce movies based on books

Due to the expanded scope of his business, the growth in newer categories such as gift and corporate sales has helped his bottom line and balance out the decline in book sales.

Of course, what worked for Kaplan may not necessarily work for others. For one, Kaplan is well-known as an industry leader, co-founding and serving as chairman on the Miami Book Fair International. He has also developed strong and deep ties to authors and publishers.

Kaplan highlights the importance of embracing change and reinventing the business to cope with the changing business landscape. The industry is on a decline, and the only way to survive is to find new ways of doing things.

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Category: Business Strategy, Success Tips

About the Author ()

Isabel Isidro is a small business owner who writes about her experiences in starting and running a business. She is the co-founder of and also runs

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