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The Christmas rules

With Christmas windows up all down the high street and publisher advertising, the stylish Waterstone’s “Joy oh Joy” campaign and W H Smith's primetime TV adverts, the retail shopping season is well underway.

We have even—finally—seen an uplift in sales as the day draws closer.

With this in mind what can we do in the world of independent bookselling to maximise our share and drive sales this Christmas?

Recommendations: Highlight staff picks on the shelves, select enticing books for the window display, on the table, as face-outs in each section and engage with all potential customers who come through the door.

Availability: Vital at this time of the year. It sounds obvious, but if you haven’t got the right books the customer can go elsewhere very quickly. Every year there are books which sell out everywhere that customers are desperate for. Independents can react quickly, keep an ear to the ground for these must-have titles and order in bulk.

Advertise: Promote events such as Christmas evenings, signings and offers in a variety of local media. Even without a marketing budget you can build up a strong customer email database, a large number of Twitter followers and print out flyers for the till.

Annual customers: Target customers who only buy books at Christmas—they want gift solutions. Keep your door open, showcase your range and be inviting for infrequent customers especially those a little intimidated by the perceived high-brow nature of independents.

Customer orders: Next day delivery is a key selling point. We can guarantee at the point of ordering that the product is available at a wholesaler and will be boxed and delivered overnight.  

Add On: Look to increase average transaction value. What else can a bookshop sell?  We sell stories and this year we are doing wonders with £2.99 finger-puppets for kids to enact their own stories. A great stocking filler.  

Price: While every independent has a different view on pricing, we’ve found selected discounting on the right books drives footfall and sales.

Added value: Signed copies make a perfect gift.

Christmas titles: Clear out space for a bay of Christmas-themed books. Grouping all children's titles works especially well.

Humour: Unlike a dog, the humour section really is just for Christmas. Bulk up the section and give it full impact to maximise sales.

Staff motivation: Keep everyone smiling and motivated, we need to be busy.

Do all this whilst keeping margin, stock levels and costs very firmly under control, and you should have a very happy Christmas. Good luck.
 

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All excellent advice. Here are a couple more tactics I've used successfully: 1. A window display entitled 'Little Gems You May Have Missed' with some carefully selected mid-list titles (more often than not at the upper end of the market, often from smaller publishers) which deserve greater exposure. Accompany each with a review header board because at Christmas people are in a hurry and like to be guided confidently. 2. Buy multiples of a few very, very carefully selected quality remainders which play to your market - art books, local books etc - but don't pay more than £2.50 or £3 or so tops. Offer a free copy with every £25 (or whatever value you wish) spent on books.

All excellent advice. Here are a couple more tactics I've used successfully: 1. A window display entitled 'Little Gems You May Have Missed' with some carefully selected mid-list titles (more often than not at the upper end of the market, often from smaller publishers) which deserve greater exposure. Accompany each with a review header board because at Christmas people are in a hurry and like to be guided confidently. 2. Buy multiples of a few very, very carefully selected quality remainders which play to your market - art books, local books etc - but don't pay more than £2.50 or £3 or so tops. Offer a free copy with every £25 (or whatever value you wish) spent on books.