We've all heard the myths: it's easy to find and hire staff to sell books since indie bookselling is so cool; indie bookstores are only surviving because they're selling so much non-book stuff; backlist sells more, no, wait, frontlist dominates; and, the biggie, that revenues for indie bookstores are falling.
Well, hold on to your first edition, signed-by-the-author, purchased-at-your-local-indie, cult-fave book, because we're about to bust them.
BookNet Canada surveyed independent booksellers across the country to learn more about the health of indie bookselling in our country. We've compiled the results in our free study, What's in Store: The State of Independent Bookselling in Canada 2018.
And now for the myths.
Bookselling myths busted!
Click on each myth for the shareable image.
While it's true that most candidates think working in an indie bookstore is indeed cool, it turns out hiring is difficult for other reasons. Indie bookstores find it difficult to offer enough hours and competitive compensation to potential hires. It's also a challenge to find candidates who fit their work culture and who have the required skills and experience.
Not true! In 2018 68% of indie bookstore revenue in Canada came from the sale of books! Frontlist titles made up 37% of total merchandise revenue and backlist titles, 31%. Indie bookstores sell books, baby!
Indie bookstores love the holidays and a deal as much as the rest of us. Half of them offer Boxing Day promos and 35% offer Christmas deals. A quarter of indie bookstores have deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.
Both camps are wrong (and kinda right) on this one. Backlist and frontlist sell roughly at the same rate. Frontlist titles made up 37% of total merchandise revenue and backlist titles made up 31%.
Indie bookstores reward loyalty: 63% of them have loyalty programs for their customers. Some are big (the biggest at 19,000 members), some are small (only 50 members), but the average is 4,000 members for indie bookstores across Canada.
This might be the myth we're happiest to bust: Between 2017 and 2018, almost half of indie bookstores in Canada experienced a gross revenue increase of 1-10% (46%), and 15% experienced an increase of 11-25%.
This was a myth we didn't even know we were setting out to bust, but TripAdvisor has a very high return on investment (ROI) for indie bookstores. Though only 20% of indie bookstores use TripAdvisor as part of their marketing efforts, it ranked second highest in terms of social media advertising ROI only behind Facebook.
Were you as surprised as we were by some of these findings? Well, the learning doesn't stop there. Read the whole study to find out how many bookstores rent vs. own their space, some common challenges they face, and much more.