There was a time not so long ago when we could rely on remainder book sales three or four times a year to deliver excellent good-margin revenue. Those days are gone with landlords signing up deep discounters for outposts. Whereas newsagents would tend to run catalogues with prices delivering healthy margins, today’s book discounters pitch a price that only works with a sales volume far greater than newsagents could achieve with an in-store promotion.
I took the photo yesterday in a regional mall in Queensland. Everything was $6. Looking at the stock on offer, it only works if they achieve volume. The space would be costing around $3,000 for seven days. Labour would be at least $1,700 a week and this needs to be factored in even for an owner-operator. Round it up to $6,000 in operating costs for a week once you allow for freight, storage, insurance and other items and you’d need to sell at least $12,000 in books in seven days to justify the outpost.
There is no point in pining for opportunities of years past. If we want to be in books in 2014 we need to work with suppliers keen to do it differently and suppliers prepared to commit and not succumb to the discounters who do deals with landlords that harm the businesses of their long-term tenants – these outposts from non-tenants are a blight in shopping centres, they hurt many businesses.
These outpost operators who pitch on price can do so because they are here today and gone tomorrow. Retailers with long term leases can’t pitch on price unless we are prepared to forever pitch on price and that is a losing game. People who purchase on price are the most fickle shoppers. The only way to retain them is to forever pitch on price.
As for books, if we want to be in the space we have to do it in a way that represents a value proposition, one that works for us in terms of the investment needed and one that pop-up retailers will struggle to match. One newsagent I know in country Victoria has done this well by focussing on kids books and creating a section of the store beautifully decked out for this.