What Makes a Good Bookstore?

Stack of books

As some of my readers may know I have been working in a small independently owned Christian bookstore. Recently, I became the manager. I have been thinking about ways to improve the bookstore. So I have some questions for you, my readers.

What are qualities that you look for in a bookstore?

What makes a good bookstore?

Do you prefer independent retailers over the big chains or does that even matter?

If you could design a bookstore what are the top 3 things you would do?

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18 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Bookstore?”

  1. What are qualities that you look for in a bookstore?
    >> Easy to find books. Books in good condition. Well-categorized & in Alphabetical order (by Author) organization.

    What makes a good bookstore?
    >> Kind and gentle customer service. Some people are so ‘out of it’ that someone may ask a “stupid question” but if the customer service responds with the frame of mind that no question is stupid, I really appreciate that and want to come back to THEIR book store.

    Also, if a book is not available at the store, I like when the bookstore immediately offers to order the book for me w/ a discount. :D

    Do you prefer independent retailers over the big chains or does that even matter?
    >> Clark’s and my favorite bookstore is Barnes & Noble & Borders. But there’s nothing like a little cottage bookstore. :)

    If you could design a bookstore what are the top 3 things you would do?
    >> 1. Have plenty of SOFT couches & chairs to sit on while browsing a book or two.
    2. Have a cafe like Starbucks or Coffee Bean in a corner of the store.
    3. Thoroughly evaluate each employee and give them a personality test of some sort to ensure they provide top-quality customer service.

    p.s.
    I’d love to hear your thoughts on my recently new posts ;) :D

  2. I agree with Rebecca. My daughter works in a small non-profit christian bookstore. It’s a wonderful place. They have windchimes in the front of the store by the door so that when the door opens they chime ever so gently most of the day. They keep coffee going for their customers and the smell is so wonderful. They have a separated kids section where they are safe and can play or watch veggietales while parents browse. Books are also separate from music and while music plays in the store, no one browsing new CDs bothers anyone else because they listen with headphones. They have big leather sofas and armchairs near the books and coffee and you find people there all during the day. They also offer free in-store wi-fi. My daughter is the shipping and receiving manager. The behind the scenes work areas of the store is where I see a need for improvement in layout, upkeep, maintenance, work room, and more efficient use of space.

  3. What are qualities that you look for in a bookstore?
    - selection

    What makes a good bookstore?
    - friendly, knowledgeable staff
    - good selection of books

    Do you prefer independent retailers over the big chains or does that even matter?
    - yes

    If you could design a bookstore what are the top 3 things you would do?
    - provide good coffee, drinks
    - provide relaxed, comfortable atmosphere (comfortable seating, appropriate lighting, etc.)
    - decent stereo/audio system (play nice music)

  4. Rebecca,

    I can’t stand Half-Price books because the books are not organized in any logical format. Our books are well organized. I think customer service is one of our strengths. We do special orders but are unable to give discounts on special orders. Most of our books are reasonably priced ($4.99-$6.99 for paperbacks & $6.99-$11.99 for hardback). We offer discounts to ministers, teachers, law enforcement, fire fighters/emt. We also weekday specials:

    M-Bring in a church bulletin and receive $5.00 off a $25 or more purchase.
    T – Students get $5.00 off a $25 or more purchase.
    W – Discount for seniors on all purchases.
    TH – Free book day. Free $4.99 book with a $25.00 purchase.

    Currently we don’t have room for a coffee house or reading area. That might happen in the future. Although, I wouldn’t want Star bucks or another chain. I’ll look at your blog shortly.

    Mama Curry,

    We have a bell that chimes. We used to keep coffee going but no one drank it. In our current location we no longer have a kids room. The previous owner got rid our head phones so it can be annoying. At sometime in the future we might have wi-fi but not now.

  5. Rev,

    I’m working on selection. As for knowledge the Big Guy & I have MDivs from SWBTS. Our old location had room for reading area etc but we had to move because the building was structurally unsafe.

  6. Wi fi
    Comfortable seating
    good soft background music
    good coffee that is free trade and shade grown (makes me feel better to help out the little guy)
    maybe bagels and biscotti
    Friendly service :D

  7. Knowing your store and its size the best thing you can offer is the best customer service in town. I don’t mean just being polite or helpful. I saw this with you while I was up there, you were talking to a lady and asking about her kids and her life, you knew WHO she was. This is a Christian store so offer a guest prayer book for people to write prayer requests in and have a staff that is commited to praying for them at different times during the day.

    It is a smaller store so you can’t keep everything that people want but you can get it which is good. What is the number one item people come in to purchase? Whatever it is put it in the very back of the store (milk marketing). Find ways to advertise that are FREE or at least very cheap. If I didn’t know you I wouldn’t have know about the store.

    I could go on for days talking about this stuff. This is what I did at Home Depot and it is kind of what I do now. To answer your question about the larger stores – I will go to a store that knows me and wants to help me. The bigger stores miss that because for them it is all about money and if you leave ten more people will be right behind you. Be like Cheers – “Where everybody knows your name”.

  8. Lee,

    One thing we can offer is good customer service & that is what I’m trying to do. I learned a lot of this from my dad. He knew what his customers liked & would try to stock those items.

    The idea for a prayer book is great. We have always had prayer request written down usually on scraps of paper.

    The advertising is a tough one. I’m trying everything I can think of & need more ideas.

    Yeah, I like stores that are friendly & know who I am as well. You are right kind of like Cheers without the beer, guess that would be next door.

  9. Hey D,

    I wanted to post a response, but I don’t have any great revelations to offer. Customer Service is important of course. Your space is limited, but I think if there is a place for children to be entertained while their parents shop that would be a great bonus. (I’m not sure how logistically it would be feasible.) The other thing I would add is some seating, chairs are fine. I know when I am looking through various books for something in particular I want to be comfortable and take my time looking. (Nothing is worse than crouching down to look through books while having to continue to move out of the way of other shoppers).

    Besides the regular responses I would add the following: Find a niche, What is the prime target of your competition? Find an area that they aren’t reaching but is in demand, and make that a focus area.

    Hopefully this will help.

  10. Daniel,

    Space is a big problem. Customer service is our focus. We do not have a kids play area but will read books to children as needed and time permits.

    Still trying to figure out about the chairs. The only chairs I have are those yucky metal folding chairs.

    One of are strongest sellers has been Gospel music.

    It has been helpful to see that many people have the same ideas I do.

    DH

  11. Congratulations on the promotion, Dee – I know you will do an absolutely fantastic job! :-)

    You asked some really good questions, and I’ll try to answer them.

    Qualities: Knowledgeable staff, cleanliness, easy to find books, relaxing and welcoming atmosphere, places to sit comfortably while flipping through choices and making decisions. It’s also nice to have coffee or something similar available for customers, to add to the atmosphere.

    What makes a good bookstore: All of the above, combined with a wide range of choices, including some relatively obscure books.

    Independent vs Chain: That doesn’t matter to me, though if all things are equal, I will shop at an independent store in order to support small business interests.

    Design: Comfortable seating, beverages, well-organized shelves (not necessarily in that order).

    My favorite bookstore is an independent store and has not only new books, but also takes well-loved trade-ins and has a used book section. I spend hours there on a regular basis, and never leave without spending hundreds (I never trade my books, since I don’t buy them unless I want to add them to my collection, but I do like to browse the used book section since so many excellent books are not available new anymore).

    I hope that helps! :-)

  12. Looking through the comments, I see that you asked for advertising ideas.

    The best advertisement for a book store is to bring in authors to talk about their books, and do a book signing. You can likely get some free advertising that way, since it is news.

    Another idea is to have a book club, which meets at a certain time each week at the store. They will of course buy their book club books from you.

    You could also have a “children’s hour” every week, and the parents will browse (and hopefully buy some books!) while you are reading to their children. Plus, the children will bug their parents to buy them some books while they are there, LOL.

    If I come up with anymore ideas, I’ll let you know. :-)

  13. ENM,

    We have a good staff & while they are younger are willing to learn what they don’t know. We don’t have room to offer seating at this time & only have a few folding chairs. I’ve been thinking of some ideas I can do for that. We have a coffee machine but no drank coffee so we stopped making.

    I haven’t thought of a book club idea. We are working on bringing in musicians & authors. Tomorrow we have a radio station coming in & giving away free tickets to a concert. Also, we have a local artisan who makes jewelry coming in. We are working on a story hour. Currently, we read books to children while their parents are shopping. It really sales books, keeps the kids happy & lets the parents shop.

    To Everyone: Thank you for you input. Many things we can’t do because of space constraints at this time.

  14. Lee,

    Implemented your idea of a guest book/prayer book today. Had a few requests.

    To Others,

    Well, I brought how the 2 chairs we have so they are available. They aren’t good chairs but they are the best I have to offer.

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