How to Start a Bookstore

Опубликовал Admin
8-04-2021, 07:00
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If you love books, you may have thought of opening your own bookstore. Successfully operating a bookstore takes more than just a love of the written word. To start a bookstore requires knowledge and understanding of business operations, management, and the retail industry. The bookstore sector is a challenging industry with low-profit margins, but with passion and commitment, your bookstore will thrive.

Narrowing Your Focus

  1. Identify your niche. General-interest bookstores are a dime a dozen. Focusing on a particular genre or type of book will help you thrive as a smaller independent bookstore. Think about your own interests as well as the interests in the community at large. Your niche should be an area you know something about and have passion for.[[Image:Start a Bookstore Step 1 Version 3.jpg|center]
    • For example, you might start a feminist bookstore, with fiction and nonfiction books focused on equality and women's rights.
    • You might want to be genre-specific, such as starting a bookstore devoted to comics and graphic novels, or a bookstore focused on children's books.
  2. Find the right neighborhood. When you're narrowing down a location, look for an area with other thriving independent businesses and a lot of foot traffic. An area near a college or a university often is a good choice for a bookstore.
    • If you live in a small town, look at the downtown or town square area. Courthouses and government offices also generate a lot of foot traffic, as well as people waiting for appointments who might pop in to kill some time.
  3. Draft a business plan. Your business plan will help you determine how much money you need to raise to start up your business. Financial projections will give you a good idea of how long it will be before your bookstore will be profitable.
    • You'll need to show banks or other investors your business plan to get the funding necessary to get your bookstore off the ground.
    • If you've never drafted a business plan before, that's okay! There are references online that you can use. For example, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) has free online resources to help you.
    • You might also consider taking a class on small business operations, either online or through a nearby community college.
  4. Build an online presence. Even before you open your doors, you can still set up your website and social media accounts to get people in the neighborhood excited about your bookstore.
    • For example, you can start a business page on Facebook and invite all your existing friends to "like" the page and share it with others. Use the page to provide news about the planning and opening of the store.
    • You don't need to hire a web developer to build your website. Use a simple program, such as Wix, to build a basic site that's easy to navigate. Add pages for announcements, special events, and store policies.
  5. Choose your space. You can find commercial space available online, or you may want to hire a real estate agent to work with you. If you've already drafted your business plan, you have a budget in mind.
    • It will likely be 4 to 6 months before your bookstore starts turning a profit. Make sure you can afford the lease on the property in the meantime.
    • Another possibility is to start small with just a few shelves in an existing business. You also could buy or rent a truck or van and have a mobile store for a while

Organizing Your Business

  1. Choose your business structure. The business structure you choose can impact your business's growth as well as your ability to raise start-up funds. Evaluate your options carefully. Consult a business attorney if you need help deciding which structure is best for your bookstore.
    • Typically if you don't choose a specific business structure, you'll be considered a sole proprietorship by default. The biggest danger with a sole proprietorship is that your business is not considered separate from your personal finances, and you can be held personally liable for all business debts.
    • An LLC has few formalities but will shield you from personal liability. You don't need any partners to form an LLC. While there are some legal requirements and fees, they are relatively minimal.
    • A corporation would provide you with the most protection, but these are fairly complicated to set up and maintain. You'll have regular reports to file and need several business partners to form a corporate board.
  2. Register your business name. You don't necessarily have to trademark your bookstore's name, which can be a complex and expensive endeavor. However, registering your bookstore's name with your state government protects it from being used by others.
    • Depending on the business structure you chose, your state or federal government may require you to register your business name.
    • Brainstorm to come up with a good name, and check trademark and business name databases to make sure it's unique. You can get a small business advisor or attorney to help you with this.
  3. Get tax identification numbers. You'll have to pay income taxes for your business, as well as sales tax on the books and other products you sell to the public. Tax identification numbers also are necessary to open a bank account and order books.
    • For example, if you have a U.S. bookstore you can get an employer identification number (EIN) quickly and easily on the IRS's website. You just have to provide some basic information about yourself and your business.
  4. Open a business bank account. Once you have a tax identification number for your business, you can open a bank account and set up your bookstore's finances. Even if you're running your bookstore as a sole proprietorship, keep your business finances separate from your personal finances.
  5. Apply for all necessary licenses and permits. The licenses and permits you need to open your bookstore may vary depending on your location. A simple bookstore may not need any more than a local retail permit and business license.
    • If you plan to have a café in your bookstore, you'll need health and sanitation inspections. You may need additional permits if you plan to host live music or other events.
    • Check with your local small business center or chamber of commerce to find out what licenses and permits are required.
  6. Get business insurance. Business insurance protects you and your business from accidents, natural disasters, and lawsuits. If you're leasing a storefront, your landlord may require minimum levels of liability insurance.
  7. Raise start-up funds. It may cost upwards of $50,000 to start a bookstore and keep your doors open for the first lean months. Unless you have substantial savings, you may need a combination of loans and investments from public and private sources.
    • If you don't have a background as a successful small business owner, you may have difficulty getting funding from traditional sources, such as banks.
    • Credit cards and personal loans are an option, but be careful about starting your business with too much debt.
    • Crowdfunding on websites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter can be a way to not only raise funds but also build support in your community. Someone who invests even a small amount of money to open your store will be likely to shop there.
  8. Join professional associations. A professional association gives you the opportunity to network with publishers and other booksellers. You'll also have access to resources and the opportunity to attend conventions and trade shows.
    • For example, in the U.S. you can join the American Booksellers Association (ABA) as a provisional member before your bookstore even opens. The ABA has a digital kit with information on how to open a bookstore.

Setting Up Shop

  1. Buy furniture and fixtures. If you're going to sell books, you need somewhere to display them. This means you'll need to buy plenty of bookshelves, unless you were able to find a space that already had shelving available.
    • If it's in your budget, consider hiring a local carpenter or craftsman to custom build your shelves and fixtures. Potential customers will appreciate that you provided work to local professionals, and your fixtures will be of consistent quality.
    • You may want to work with a professional retail designer to create a style and vision for your store. Even if you're on a shoestring budget, your store should be a welcoming and comfortable place for customers to visit.
  2. Set up your point-of-sale and inventory management systems. A bookstore is first and foremost a retail business. Think beyond hand-counting inventory and ancient cash registers. A single, cloud-based system that runs through tablets may be your most efficient option.
    • Talk to other small business owners, especially booksellers, and find out what system they use. Ask them what they like and don't like about their system, and whether they would recommend it.
  3. Hire employees. Even with the smallest bookstore, it's unlikely you'll be able to do everything yourself. Start with a few part-time employees who are well-read and passionate about books and literature.
    • Find people who have retail experience and will provide good customer service. Knowledgeable, conscientious employees will set your store apart and keep readers coming back.
  4. Order books. How you build your initial inventory will depend to some extent on the niche you've chosen. You may contact independent publishers directly, or contract through a large wholesaler, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor.
    • Typically you will have to pay up-front for your initial inventory. You don't want to start with a lot of back stock since you can't predict what will sell.
  5. Arrange for ancillary products. Books have a low-profit margin, but the customers who come to a small independent bookstore aren't necessarily looking for a bargain. Provide your customers with an experience, and offer other products to reinforce that experience.
    • For example, you might add a small café or wine bar. Food and drink typically has a higher profit margin and will help support your operation.
    • Selling branded coffee mugs, t-shirts, and hoodies can help you make money as well as promote your store.

Reaching Local Readers

  1. Have a grand opening. A strong grand opening event is a great way to get positive local media coverage for your new bookstore. Arrange for free food and drinks, contests, and prizes to stimulate enthusiastic support.
    • Start planning your grand opening 2 to 3 months before the date so everything will run smoothly.
    • Send out press releases to local newspapers and TV news outlets. You also want to send invitations to any influential book bloggers based nearby.
    • If there are any relatively well-known authors nearby, invite them to the grand opening or arrange for a book signing.
  2. Connect with local artists and craftsmen. If you have blank walls or spaces in your bookstore, network with local artists and lease them space to sell their creations. You might also consider inviting local bands to play.
    • Open mics and writer nights are another good way to build community support for your store.
  3. Sponsor local events. Partnering up with other small business owners or your local library is a good way to attract new readers as well as establishing your bookstore as an active part of the neighborhood.
    • Schools offer another opportunity for partnership. For example, you might partner with a local school and provide a discount for parents who buy books at your bookstore to fulfill their child's summer reading requirements.
    • Provide gift cards as an incentive for events and charity drives.
  4. Stay active on social media. Maintain a quick response time to any comments on your social media pages, and use them to keep your readers informed on new releases and upcoming events.
    • Keep your main website up-to-date. Whenever you have events or host an author, take plenty of pictures and post them on your website as well as social media.
    • Encourage regular customers to contribute book reviews and recommendations.
  5. Give back to the community. Charity drives and book giveaways create a good impression of your business among locals and help you establish deep roots relatively quickly. People will be more likely to patronize your store if you show that you care about your neighborhood and the people around you.
    • For example, you may run a promotion where the store donates a book to needy children for every purchase in your store above a certain amount.
    • Provide opportunities and encourage your employees to volunteer for local charity events and nonprofits. You may even be able to tie this into your niche. For example, if you've opened a feminist bookstore, you could coordinate efforts with a women's rights organization.
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