We'd like to share excellent news from Kate Rattenborg, owner and founder of Dragonfly Books in Decorah, IA. (The above picture is courtesy of Driftless Magazine.) Kate recently told us about the beneficial changes of buying the building her bookstore is located in. Congratulations, Kate!
"I don't think there is anything scarier than a bookseller facing losing their lease. Since I opened Dragonfly Books five years ago, it seems like I've either read of or spoken with numerous shops/owners that have had to change their business plans due to the whims of a landlord.
This past summer, my landlord talked with me about his desire to sell the building I've been renting. Over the years, we've had some discussions about long-range plans for the building, and I knew that at some point I would need to decide if purchasing the building would be both feasible and the appropriate decision to make. After much thought and negotiation, I closed on the building in mid-November. Whoa! I'm now the proud owner (with assistance from my local bank) of a two-story, 1894 brick building located in the middle of historic downtown Decorah, Iowa. Our college-town community of 8,000, in the heart of rural northeast Iowa, is extremely supportive of shopping locally, and the security of knowing I'll be able to stay in my prime location is wonderful.
Why purchase, other than it gives me control over the use of the building? First, there are some financial benefits to ownership. Second, I now have access to a bit more space, including an apartment on the second level. The rental income from the apartment covers the higher financial costs of owning the building, such as increased liability insurance costs and property taxes. There is also an additional 800 square feet available on the main level, that can, after major renovations in the next few years, provide the store with staff space and/or a dedicated event space. I'm most excited about the opportunity to have the additional space for events! As much as I want to do a complete remodel of this back room space *immediately*, doing so will be a future project, as I don't want to get overextended.
If you find yourself in the vicinity, stop on in!"
We'd like to share a winter catalog success story, once again proving that independent booksellers are an indispensable force in the bookselling industry.
Last year, we offered booksellers a new form of direct mail called "saturation mailing." It allows booksellers to literally "saturate" entire zip codes with our holiday catalog chock full of gift-worthy books. Every catalog sent via saturation was customized with the bookstore's own logo and identity, bringing customers directly into those stores where displays of catalog titles were waiting.
On the back end, we helped booksellers select zip codes to saturate by targeting neighborhoods without bookstores or by reviewing the demographic information about those areas.
All told, in the first year alone, we had 25 bookstores saturate their areas with 90,000 catalogs!
Watermark Books targeted a neighborhoods that aren't represented well on their in-house list of customers and increased their sales by 386 percent, "definitely brining in new customers."
Alice Meyer, owner of Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa, saw a 217 percent sales increase. Here's what she says about the program.
"We had done a limited catalog mailing in the past, but saturation mailing was a very attractive and affordable option. We targeted our immediate neighborhood and a neighborhood with an upscale shopping district, but no bookstore. It was so satisfying to see customers coming into the store with their catalogs. They say our display upon entering the store and were more than happy to order a book if we didn't have it. As a result, our catalog sales were up 217 percent and we were thrilled! Many customers were new to the store and we've seen a lot of repeat business. We would definitely do this again, and I think it will only be more successful."
This year, we're promoting this method to our stores again, and last year's success stories will help us reach even more bookstores and customers. Happy book selling!
Ten bookstores in the Twin Cities teamed up to create a passport program for Independent Bookstore Day on April 30, 2016. Featuring Kevin Cannon's wonderful artwork and hand-drawn illustrations of each of the stores, the passport awarded anyone who visited all 10 participating stores a $10 gift card to all 10 stores. Media outlets from CityPages to MPR and the Pioneer Press reported on the program leading up to the event, and the turnout and participation surpassed our expectations.
The passport was based loosely on a similar program held in Seattle in 2015 encouraging book lovers to visit 17 stores. Only one individual accomplished the task, so bookstores in the Twin Cities had modest expectations--that is, until doors opened and passports started flying off of counters. When the dust cleared, more than 100 bookstore customers had tweeted us photos of their finished passport, with the vast majority having completed the challenge of visiting all 10 stores over the course of the day.
The responses were colorful and heartening. A mom and her two kids completed the whole passport and took colorful photos at every store. Some people bought a book or two (or three?) at every store and included photos of their loot. Others completed part or all of the passport on bike, notably Tracy Mumford, the Minnesota Public Radio reporter who shared photos of each stop and even a map of her route.
Participating bookstores were thrilled at the success of the program. Angela of Moon Palace Books, whose store created a Twin Cities Bookstore Map that was given out alongside the passports, said, "100 winners is awesome! The more the better, as far as I'm concerned. I consider it some of the best money we could spend for advertising since it got people to walk in through the door. If we do it next year let's try for 200--that's how excited we are."
Holly of Red Balloon Books added, "Wow! That is great! We had a fantastic day. Sales were way up from last year and lots of people came in with the passports." Matt Keliher from Subtext also saw an exceptional sales increase. "The passport was a SMASHING success. It really made the day a lot of fun, and it will continue to bring people into all of our stores for the weeks and months ahead. Yes, 100 $10 gift cards sounds like a lot, but honestly, if even half of the people who succeeded in getting the reward return to all ten stores and buy another book, that is fantastic. This was a tremendous success. Subtext had our best sales day in history!"
While not every community can support a campaign like this one, MIBA is hard at work conceiving of how best to support similar efforts in other metropolitan areas in the region.
One wonderful aspect of using Twitter to track participant's completed passports was getting to see the enthusiasm for Independent Bookstore Day and for each bookstore they visited. Take a look at some of the tweets MIBA received below.