View Full Version : Does anyone on the board own a used bookshop?

11-30-2016, 12:19 AM
My partner and I have worked in locally owned retail businesses for over a decade and we're itching to go into business for ourselves. We're both book people and would be most interested in opening a used bookshop. There are currently two in our city, and they both do quite well. So we feel like - why couldn't we do that? We would obviously choose to locate ourselves in another area of the city away from the other two, but I still feel like opening a bookshop (or well...any small shop) can be a scary step and you can very easily end up failing/not having enough business.

So...are any AWers current or former bookshop owners?

The plan would be for my partner to work f/t in the new shop and I would continue to work at least p/t at my current job, so we wouldn't be completely relying on the one source of income.

12-01-2016, 10:34 AM
If you are willing to emigrate to Anchorage, Alaska, we have a very large and successful used bookstore in town that is aiming to close its doors next March. I'm not entirely sure of the reason, but it may involve a combination of lease renewal issues and just a desire on the part of the owners to retire. There will be deep mourning in my city when this long-time icon of local business does close. I can't enumerate how many books I've bought from there.


Old Hack
12-02-2016, 01:57 PM
Bookshops are notorious money-losers. If you've not worked in the business before, and don't have a thorough understanding of how and why bookshops lose money, and a plan to make your own bookshop different, I strongly advise you to change your plans and start a more reliable business. Like, perhaps, being a unicorn vet or a dentist for hens.

Sorry to be so negative. But I've seen many great bookshops, both used and new, go under despite having great business plans and skilled and experienced management and staff. I don't want to see this happen to anyone else.

12-02-2016, 08:05 PM
There seems to be a trope of writers thinking they should open up a book shop. It's noble but often foolish. We've had a number of them in Phoenix, and only a few survived.

12-02-2016, 10:00 PM
I'm heavy into the local RPG scene, and have some friends who own game stores, which are in the same niche. Bookshops and gaming stores are difficult to keep afloat. With the prevalence of big box bookstores and the awesome power of the internet, Amazon, and similar services, it's very difficult to find a niche to compete within. You pretty much have to hit the local community with a plan from day one and be willing to detect business trends before they hit, and adapt accordingly. Even then, you might not succeed.Don't go in thinking "Huh, this might be fun, bet I can do it!" If you must, go in with eyes wide open expecting it to be hard as hell most of the time, and have contingency plans ready if your fears come true.

12-02-2016, 10:18 PM
I have been a book dealer . I would guess there is some local variation , so I can't say if a book shop would work where you are . In England some book shops do manage to pay the bills , but to open a new one would probably be a big mistake. Some book shops can still make money selling on-line. However, the demand is in decline and availability has increased, so prices have been falling .Some how, some people seem to be able to make money in almost any business, and of course if your interested in books the money may not be the main motivation . I would suggest you start small, sell books on Amazon and maybe a weekly market . Spend as little of your money as possible, just reinvest your profits and try to build a bigger business. Good luck

12-17-2016, 12:35 AM
I've seen a lot chains and smaller stores go under.

They usually all go through the same phases of looking like a book store, becoming some kind of hybrid gift shop selling games, cards/novelty items, and then they rapidly downsized, basically having only the trendiest titles.

Like literally they have Twilight in hardcover and the only Stephen King they had was Under the Dome when it was new. Non-fiction was mostly a mish-mash of pop celebrities and new age self help books (The Secret/Chickensoup for the _____).

Despite these 'innovations', they soon shut their doors.

The problem is that you're renting space and labor while books rapidly decrease in value relative to their initial popularity. To make money you need to empty shelves and replace product regularly.

The only other viable option is to have some sort of club membership with a lot of perks so you can have guaranteed monthly income.

12-17-2016, 01:06 AM
A friend of mine opened three bookshops over twenty years in our home city, two of which she had to close. Finally, she bought a duplex with a struggling but established used bookshop in the bottom of a house with an apartment on the top floor, and finally makes a small but decent living. She says the secret is to own the building, so you don't have lease problems, and to think about other services you can offer that might draw people in. (In her case, she offers to receive parcels for people and have them picked up at the store, for a small fee. I'm sure it bugs her to get the Amazon parcels, but she says many people buy something when they come in.)

12-23-2016, 10:50 PM
I live in Hay-on-Wye, Town of Books, and I own one tenth of a bookshop. As has already been said, it's hard to make a go of it, especially in these days of internet selling.
Basically, a bookshop needs to also be online with Amazon or abebooks (there are other bookselling sites like Antiqbooks too, but those get the most traffic). It also helps if the bookshop is not just a bookshop but also has a cafe, or opens in the evenings for book groups to meet, or has guests giving readings. Specialising in a particular area can also help - for instance in Hay there are two specialist children's bookshops and a poetry bookshop.
Also think about where you're going to get your stock from - wholesalers for new books and remainders, members of the public bringing boxes of secondhand books in? If so, you'll need to be able to discern trash from treasure pretty quickly!

01-08-2017, 07:47 AM
Sorry for the delay, haven't been on in awhile. But thanks for all the replies!