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This month’s Digest:


Do you own or run a bookshop? Are you getting the best out of it? Probably you are not. Why? The point is that a great deal of bookshop owners and administrators are not getting then best out of their bookshops. And the reasons are not far fetched.

1. Most people who own and run bookshops run them like provision shops. The shops are so small and tight for the shop attendant let alone for customers.
2. Most people who manage book shops are themselves not literate enough and as such do not read.
3. Most book shop environments are not academic friendly. Some are situated in very noisy environments.
4. The lighting and shelf arrangement are not welcoming
5. Most bookshop operators do not allow buyers to walk through the shelves. They place a barricade to the entrance and book buyers stay at arms length to request for titles.
6. Still many stock out of date and non-current titles.

If you want to run a good bookshop you must correct the above lapses. First realize that bookshops are places of academic investment and requires a bit of academic appreciation by the operator. It is also not like other shops: it is not a provision store, a supermarket or a pharmacy. You are dealing with students and people of enlightened mind who buy for mental upliftment and or for professional, educational or business application.

The following guide may prove helpful to you.

1. Have the concept of a library in mind while setting up your bookshop.

2. To the above end visit a library and walk through, preferably a university library or a good and standard bookshop (say for instance Havillah Bookshops on Ikorodu Road, Lagos, or CSS Bookshops on 50 Broad Street, Lagos).

3. Create enough room for book lovers to walk through the shelves. Bookshelves are arranged in rows to enable visitors browse the books based on the categories and titles that they are looking for. When a bookstore is crowded by book lovers, the space between the bookshelves have to be wide enough for at least two people moving in opposite direction without colliding each other and without hitting the books. Therefore, there has to be a standard width to allow book lovers to walk around inside the bookstore.

4. Regular cleaning of bookshelves is an important part of managing a bookstore. Dusty bookshelves will look dirty and make the books placed on them dirty. When book lovers stand in front of dirty bookshelves, they will not be interested in exploring every shelf to find the books that they want to read. They might pick up one or two books but when they find out that the surface of the book's cover is dirty with dust, they will put it back on the shelf again and walk out of the bookstore. To prevent it from happening to your bookstore you should regularly clean the bookshelves.

5. The number of shelves that you need for your bookstore depends on the number of books and the categories which you want to provide. When you place the books on the shelves the front cover or face of the books has to be visible to enable the customers see the title of the books. When managing a bookstore, bookshelves are arranged in rows according to the categories. For instance, the categories of management, accounting, and economics should be grouped in adjacent shelves whereas the book categories of law and politics should be placed side by side. It is important to buy bookshelves that will support or bear the whole surface of the back cover of the books to avoid the books to be buckled. Bookshelf design is an important criterion when you want to buy them.

6. Managing a bookstore is similar to managing a retail enterprise. Do your best to meet the various demands of your customers by providing books that are high in quality yet affordable in price. For you price should be affordable but the cleanliness and neatness of the bookstore are two important factors in creating a comfortable environment for book lovers to get a good shopping experience.

7. Categories of books. Books in a bookstore are categorized according to such topics as engineering, computer, agriculture, politics, law, medicine, religion, business and etc. So books that have titles that can be grouped into one category should be placed in bookshelves that reflect the right category for them.

8. Bookshelves layout in a bookstore. Similar to supermarket, books as the main merchandise will be displayed on bookshelves. Every bookshelves needs to have a need to help visitors identify the category of books that are being displayed on the bookshelves. In addition, the bookshelf design should be made to receive all the surface of the books' cover without buckling them. Often we find people read the books along the aisle between the bookshelves. The distance between bookshelves should be at least 1 meter to allow to people stand between them without causing the books to fall down to the floor.

9. Point of Sales. Every bookstore will need good POS software to help with the selling of the books. By having a good POS application, you will be able to know the number of books that have been sold during the day and the amount of money that you can get. In addition, the POS will reduce the stock of books in the database inventory so that managers of the bookstore can be informed about the quantity of books.

10. The outside appearance of the bookstore. This is important because it can attract people to enter. Paint the bookstore in a brighter color with a sign post that can be read by pedestrians. Sometimes major bookstores put newly arrived or best selling books on the front windows.

11. Promotion. Promoting books is not the same as promoting food or kitchen equipment. Books are unique. Every book has different author and different content. If you only operate a small bookstore and do not have enough money to put an advertisement in the local radio or newspaper, you can print a brochure to promote your bookstore. If you have enough budgets, you can conduct a seminar by inviting a famous writer to discuss a book that you believe will be needed by people in your town. The author of the books will be very happy to come to your bookstore and become the keynote speaker.

12. Profit margin of the books. Bookshop owner needs profit in order to pay the bills and to develop the business. From experience, the profit margin that bookshop owners charge to most of the books is between 25 to 30%. It is a net profit. It means that if you have to take into account the cost of shipping from publishers, the interest rate from the bank and cost of the utilities, then the margin that you charge on the merchandise can reach between 50 to 70%. Before applying a profit margin, you have to be very careful in calculating all the operational cost of the books. The final price must not become a heavy burden. Books have to be affordable so that people can buy them regularly.
So, 25 percent net profit should be adequate for your bookstore business.

13. Other merchandise. If you want to add other merchandise to your bookstore, you should consider the products that are still relevant with the core of your business which is selling books. We would recommend school supplies such as pencils, pens, note books, rulers, bags, eraser and other things that are related to schools. Big bookstores add office supplies in their merchandise and electronic products such as computer, digital camera and music instruments. Art supplies can also be added into the merchandise of your bookstore but all of them have to be sold in separate section. The merchandise can be displayed on the same floor but they should have separate sections so that they will not be mixed with books.


Okay, if you are really serious in having your own home based bookstore, here are some of the tips that you need to know before opening a bookstore:

1. Make survey on book needs - See the routes of public transportation that pass by your house. They show the types of people/ passengers in the buses that pass by your house every day. Are they office workers, high school students, or university students, or farmers? If you open your bookstore, they will most likely stop their buses and enter your bookstore. So, provide books that are suitable to their needs.

2. Make survey of people within the radius of 300 meters around your house - People who live within the radius of 300 meters from residence will visit your home based bookstore. They will go to your bookshop on foot. Identify who they are, what professions they are, and what levels of education they have. Provide books that they need.

3. If there is a university or institution of higher learning like polytechnic or college of education, try to find information about the study programs that this institution has and the number of students. If possible, you can get the synopsis of each of the study program. This is important information which you need to get so that you can accurately provide books that the students and the lecturers really need.

4. Promotion - Because your shop/house might be located or not located at a main street, you will need to inform people in your town about its existence. If you have money, you can put an advertisement on local newspaper, radio, or if possible attach banners at main streets in your town or city. If you need an idea of bookstore promotion, please read How I promote my bookstore by Charles Roring .

5. Your home based bookstore needs a name. Give a good name that really reflects the spirit of your business. Paint the name on a big sign board and display it in front of the bookstore.

6. Book categories. When you open your bookstore, you need to arrange the books according to a number of categories such as agriculture, engineering, computers and IT, health and medicines, religion, fiction, business, law and politics, and school textbooks. All those books have to be arranged on bookshelves that have been well designed and constructed. A good bookshelf design will not buckle the books. The bookshelves layout should be arranged to allow smooth flow of book lovers moving inside your bookstore.

7. Computer and software application - To help you with the selling of your books, you may need a computer that is installed with such applications as Microsoft Access, Excel, Word and if possible special POS (Point of Sales) which has been designed for a retail bookshop.

8. Cleanliness - Keep you bookstore as clean (both indoor and outdoor) and as comfortable as possible. You may need to plant flowers in front of the bookstore.

9. Be ready to work long hours and on Saturdays, too.

10. Online bookshop - Study the possibilities of opening an online bookstore using e-commerce shopping cart software such as VPASP, ZenCart, OS Commerce and etc. If you can open an online bookstore, there is a big possibility for it to become bigger than your home based bookstore.

11. Neatness and cleanliness - Every day book lovers enter your bookstore. They pick up books, read the synopses at the back cover and put them back again if they are not interested. When the bookstore is not very crowed with book lovers, you will have to rearrange the books again according to their categories. Every morning, sweep the floor. The cleanliness of a bookstore is not only limited to the floor but the air ventilation, the sign board, the glass windows, and the outside yards and the last but not the least, the books themselves. A clean and neat bookstore attracts more customers.

12. Relationship - In today's internet era, relationship between bookstore owner and customers is still important. You have to compete not only with bookstores in the same town but with online bookstores that provide books with more titles and "cheaper prices." Relationship is maintained by giving away newest book info, sending SMS to book lovers and providing an order form for those who seek books that you do not have now.

13. Free reading corner - This is another strategy which you may apply to your bookstore. Provide a corner with a bookshelf in your bookstore which contains books that book lovers can read for free. Sometime they may borrow the books. This kind of service is not here in Nigeria but popular in places like the USA. Could you exploit this opportunity


Well, bookstore can be a home based, non-home based for instance the one that is located in a mall or an independent building in a strategic location on a busy street. The latest trend that is increasingly popular is online bookshop. With three types of bookstores, there will be three kinds of management to make these businesses successful.

Managing a Home Based Bookstore

Home based bookstore in its size usually is a small store that is run from a shop. I personally manage my home based Xavier bookstore from my living room. Because it is a small bookshop, I give more attention in the book market that are really needed by my customers. I carefully make research on the what book categories that university students in my home town Manokwari are looking for. Because the university has study programs that are related to agriculture and forestry, many of my books are about these topics. In addition, the percentage of Christian population in this town is high, books about Christianity is the highest in monthly selling.

To minimize the cost, I don't hire any employees. I use two computers to help me with Point of Sales and Online Bookstore management. Brick and mortar bookshop that is run from home can compete in the national and international level through online store. I will discuss more about it in my third point. Last year, I got 400 million rupiahs or around 40,000 US dollars from this home based bookstore business. It is very profitable business if we are serious in running it. So, if you are now considering of running a home based bookstore, do it now. You have to be smart in determining the profit margin you will charge to your books without losing your competitive position.

Managing an Enterprise Class Bookstore

If you have large amount of capital or if you can tap capitals from banks, your friends, parents, and other business partners, you can set up a big bookstore that is located in an independent building at a strategic location in your town or city. Managing such a big bookstore cannot be done alone. Besides you need more workers, you will have to be very professional manager. The bigger the bookstore, the more complicated its management will be. Employees will work in two or three shifts. You also need to think about gaining enough profit to be shared with investors at the end of a business year. In addition, the overhead cost such as electricity, and other utilities can be high. If you get substantial amount of loan from a bank, you have the obligation to pay it back. Managing a bookstore in this size is a serious thing. You cannot just close it if you want to visit your friends in other city. Personally, I have never experienced managing an enterprise class bookstore with around 30 employees. With the rapid growing of my home based bookstore, I will someday have to hire more workers and move my bookstore to a building or a mall where the number of visitors is higher and the potential of profit earnings is better. The lay out of bookshelves and the bookshelf design play an important role in ensuring smooth flow of people moving around your bookstore.

Managing an Online Bookstore

Talking about online bookstore, this type of bookshop is now getting popular among students because they can get books that they are looking even from the other side of the world. Online bookstores are now in tight competition with brick and mortar bookstores. In order to enter international market, brick and mortar bookstores (including home based bookshops) are now launching their own online bookstores.

To open an online bookshop, you need an internet connection, and a little investment on webhosting. Today, e-commerce shopping cart software such as OS Commerce, VPASP and ZenCart can be used to set up an online retail stores including a bookstore. The management of bookstore using such shopping carts is relatively easy. You don't even need to know html code although some knowledge about database management will be helpful. Overall, all you need to think about is how to categorize your books using that e-commerce software and how to handle the shipment of the books if there are customers ordering your merchandise from other countries.

If you don't know how to operate e-commerce shopping cart for your online bookstore, you can still have your own online bookshop by registering yourself as an Amazon Associate. After becoming a member, you can write a review about the book that you used to read and add book (the code is provided directly by the Amazon.com) into your blog post. The best and the easiest way to do this is by using blogger.com - the easiest and the fastest blogging platform that is provided by Google.

By Charles Roring, Manokwari, West Papua, Indonesia.


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