Making Money From Things That Aren't Books:
Booksellers use Literary Luminaries™ gift sales to boost the bottom line
More and more booksellers are getting the message that they can make a lot of money on gift sales, when the gifts are properly displayed. There are a number of bookstores across the nation, big and small, that are making 25 to 35 percent of their total sales from gifts, and an even higher percentage of profits, due to higher margins on gift products. We talked recently with buyers and owners who stock the Literary Luminaries gift line, to get ideas on how bookstores benefit from our products.
The first things many retailers mention are the Literary Luminaries umbrellas - book-related gifts that make a vibrant display and are drawing more gift buyers into bookstores for the convenience of one-stop shopping. These tend to be literary minded people, with much disposable income making higher dollar sales.
"Right now the umbrellas are working really well to get people in the door to buy other things,"
said Nancy Miller, co-owner of the 2,000-square-foot Sun Rose Bookstore in Ocean City, New Jersey. "They have brought in that more gift-oriented customer who, once they get in the store, they say 'Aha!' when they see all we have to offer." The little store has sold a whopping $1,250 dollars of umbrellas alone in just over three months. "It was rainy in the spring and people bought them. Now it's a summer tool for the sun. People use it as a parasol," Miller said.
Another selling point is that the umbrellas are double reinforced with high quality materials and dyes. "They don't fade," Miller said. "I've had to resort to selling them out of the window. We have extremely bright sunlight for most of the day and we have big windows. They had been in there for months. They have never faded and the quality is good."
Quality is important when your bottom line is at stake. Miller estimates that 33 percent of her revenue comes from gifts. "You've got to increase your bottom line with sidelines, like the one's your company sells," Miller said. "It's made us survive."
Literary Luminaries gifts are doing just as well in the larger stores. Lisa Casper, gifts buyer for more than 70,000 square feet of selling space in the three Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, carries a full line of Luminaries gifts - mugs, note cards, book marks, journals, tote bags and, of course, umbrellas, which are displayed prominently by the check out.
"They're getting noticed and they're a good price point," said Casper, who will also be stocking the new authors now being introduced on these popular products for the holiday season. "People seem drawn to these caricatures," said Casper who, like Miller, has also had to sell demo models to ardent customers. "This man, he said 'Give it to me now.' He didn't want to wait for one to come from another store," she said. "I guess when you want Shakespeare, you want Shakespeare."
Another reason for the Literary Luminaries appeal is their one-of-a kind quality. "They celebrate writers and there are few lines that do that,"
Leigh Batnick, of Washington D.C.'s Politics and Prose bookstore, said in an ABA article about the success of the Literary Luminaries gifts. "And they're original. We carry about 150 lines, and these have a new look," she said.
"There's a Hallmark store down the street," said Sun Rose's Miller. "We go for the more unique lines. These are unique."
Customers seem to agree. "There's something about those pictures that's really captivating,"
said Susan Larsen, a Luminaries enthusiast who has made some five different purchases in the last 90 days and now has cards, bookmarks, mugs and a book bag, not to mention all the products she has given away as gifts. Larsen, who lives on Martha's Vineyard, says she frequently gets compliments and queries on her Shakespeare book bag when she goes to the beach. In a recent conversation with Literary Luminaries, she asked for business cards, so she could tell people where to buy these gifts.
I love the book bag because it's polyfiber. When I spill my coffee on it I can just wipe it off - it doesn't stain. I don't carry a purse but this is perfect for me, because I can carry my checkbook, my water bottle, my books and it has a place for my cell phone. And it zips. That keeps the sand out. It's perfect," Larsen said. When her new office-library is finished, she said, "I am going to have the note cards framed and put in there." She has bought cards for her children to give as gifts to their teachers, "but I don't want to give them away," she said. "I am kind of hoarding them to myself."
Another key for retailers is Literary Luminaries' willingness to respond to their requests. For example, seeing their customers' positive response to the Luminaries look, several retailers asked for smaller items that can be used at or near the register, for the impulse buys that increase sales amounts with no extra effort. Literary Luminaries responded with playing cards and magnet sets.
"I'm really excited about the playing cards and the magnets," said Casper of Denver's Tattered Cover. "The cards are easy because they are small. We can just put them right at the counter…if there is something to look at, usually they'll buy it," she said.
Every retailer we talked to credited gift sales with 25 to 35 percent of their total sales. "Gift sales have really changed our bottom line. They are now 25 percent of our sales. It creeps up higher in November and December,"
said Gayle Shanks, co-owner of the 10,000-square-foot Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. Shanks, who has been teaching a 'Gift-selling 101' seminar at the ABA's BookExpo America for the past 10 years, said she is still surprised that she has to push booksellers to understand how important gift sales are.
"I always open [the seminars] by telling them, 'You can be a bookstore, but you can also sell things that are profitable.' When they hear that, bookstore owners are appalled. The diehards say they will never sell gifts that aren't book related. And I say, 'Well, in two years you won't be attending this conference, because you won't be in business.' They usually come around," she said. "I have gotten so many people into selling gifts."
Literary Luminaries celebrates the great authors and artists, and the priceless works they created. In any bookstore these literary gifts provide a focal point around which books and literary products can be displayed.