To Dump, Or Not To Dump

Josie Leavitt -- July 18th, 2013

I’ve been buying books for the store for years, and I’ve noticed some changes in the publishing world. Primarily what I’ve seen in the last two weeks of frontlist ordering is the astonishing number of display dumps that are being offered by the publishers. A dump is a cardboard display for books that is designed to showcase or highlight certain books. This is great in theory, but there can be problems with these.

The first problem is it’s hard to keep track of how many displays I’ve ordered from the various publishers. Honestly, there have been so many dump offers for the fall season, that it’s hard to keep track of how many I’ve ordered just in one publisher meeting. I really need to keep a list of the number of dumps I’ve ordered and when they’re coming in. Space is always at a premium at any bookstore, and too many dumps can make the store look cluttered and ultimately defeat the purpose of the dump: to sell more books faster.

The reason displays are so tempting is often there are better discounts offered if you take them. Of  course a display usually means taking more books, so the publishers are smart to offer greater savings on them. I had a meeting with Scholastic the other day and there were at least five dumps I bought. That seemed like a lot to me, and it is, but 6% more of a discount swayed me.

There is a process I go through when I think about taking a dump and it’s all about knowing my customers. The chief thing I consider is will this display be something my customers want? Will a display of a new dystopian YA hardcover grab the attention of shoppers? Is it a well known author? Is it a book kids will already come in looking for? If the display is a mix of the newest book in a series in hardcover, did the earlier books in the series sell well? Thank goodness for computerized inventory to aid in some of these decisions.

The reason stores like displays is it allows to you to showcase books easily. Having a display set up telegraphs to customers: This book needs your attention, take a second look. The problem is more than one display per section is one display too many and then nothing gets looked at. In fact, too many displays can actually block the books on the shelves, so now, no books are easily seen. So, there is always a delicate balancing act.

Something to consider about dumps is how good does the display look? Not everything ships well. We just got a dump for a new, and heavy Star Wars book, that came sufficiently banged up that it couldn’t really hold up the books. This is obviously counter-productive. While this situation does not happen often, it happens enough that an ordered display cannot be used. This now means a shelf has to be rearranged to accommodate the books that should be in the dump. Hardly tragic, but it can cause a headache to staff and customers alike.

Lastly, I know I overbought displays for the fall because the publisher incentives were greater than they’ve ever been. Penguin had a deal if you bought a certain number of displays, you’d get more co-op, Scholastic gave a better discount. In this day and age, when every savings must be maximized, it’s easy to go for the dump. Every publisher wants us to buy more books and offering deals on displays is a great way to do that.

Here’s hoping that my store is not overrun with dumps in October in my attempts to save money. I’ll keep you all posted on the total number of displays I wind up with by Christmas.

2 thoughts on “To Dump, Or Not To Dump

  1. Carol Chittenden

    The larger the display, the shorter its time on the floor. Anything that isn’t holding books has to move over so it doesn’t block what’s next to it. However, I have one staffer who made great use of a character display. She was giving her three teenage sons a paintball set as a holiday gift, so she adopted the retired character display for them to use as a target.

  2. Shoshana

    I would add that the narrower the dump, the more likely we are to be able to use it. I would love it if publishers creating big displays would also offer the option of smaller versions (if that isn’t happening already – I’m not a buyer and can’t say for sure). Every inch of space counts in a small or midsize store!

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