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How to Start a Bookstore Business

by Morgan Rush
Starting a bookstore business is one way to combine a love of books with a
knack for business. Competition can be tough — the U.S. Census Bureau
reported 10,635 bookstores in 2010. While total sales of brick-and-mortar
bookstores and online book retailers reached $13.4 billion in 2009,
according to Foner Books' book sales statistics, recent trends show online
book retailers vastly outpacing traditional bookstores. Major bookstore
retailers are becoming increasingly common, but some consumers prefer
shopping at a local bookstore for a more personal experience.

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Research the local market to identify your niche. Bookstore businesses can cater to the general public, although it may be
harder to compete with the massive inventories of chain bookstores. Visit local bookstores to identify a niche where you
can meet consumer needs. If there’s already an abundance of bookstores, consider opening a used bookstore or a
bookstore featuring specialized inventories, such as history, travel, poetry or photography.


Lease or buy a location. People like to hang out in bookstores, so choose an area that already attracts pedestrian traffic,
such as a business or shopping district. Look for large store windows and plenty of floor space for shelving.
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Stock inventory. In addition to stocking your own personal favorites, be sure to include books that will appeal to wide
audiences. Order books from a distributor’s catalog or scout the market for bookstore closures — it may be possible to
buy out their inventory to add to your business’s collection. Contact local libraries wanting to get rid of old or duplicate
book inventories and offer to donate a small percentage of your profits. More specialized or rare books can be sold at
higher prices.


Market the bookstore. Bookstores can rely on traditional marketing methods such as window signage. Consider passing
out fliers to college students at local campuses near the beginning of the semester to promote the bookstore.

Things Needed
Book inventory
Window signage
Coffee counter
Book club
Liability insurance
Some bookstore customers have come to expect a bookstore “experience,” so consider including comfortable armchairs, a
fireplace, coffee counter and open mike night for live music and literature readings. Encourage socialization by sponsoring a book
club, book signings and other literature-related events.

If you’re planning to sell textbooks, consider offering “trade in” promotions to college students who can bring in used textbooks in
exchange for discounts on new materials.

Fire, theft and other disasters are a threat to bookstore inventories. Don’t forget to purchase liability insurance to protect against

To B e o r N o t t o B e
Learn how to beat the odds of family business failure in the ME & beyond.

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References (5)
U.S. Census Bureau: Back to School: 2010-2011
Foner Books: Book Sales Statistics
A Touch of Business: How to Start a Bookstore
My Small Biz: Sell Used Books by Starting a Bookstore Business
Bright Hub: How to Start a Used Bookstore for Under $1,000
Resources (2)
Start Up Biz Hub: Starting a Bookstore
Home Business Center: How to Open Your Own Bookstore 1-2-3
About the Author
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous
publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor
of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

Photo Credits
reading a book image by Yurok Aleksandrovich from

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