Getting Ready for a Sale

Josie Leavitt - August 16, 2010

This coming Saturday is Shelburne Day. A day created by the town to celebrate all that makes our town special. Somehow, this involves every business renting a tent and having a sale. On the surface this sounds simple, but sales are actually a lot of work.
The goal of a sale is two-fold. First, to sell books that have been languishing. these are generally books that can no longer be returned — oddball books from small publishers whose returns aren’t worth the freight back, and the mistakes the buyer (sadly, usually me) has made throughout the year. The second goal of a big sale is to generate cash flow, so it’s imperative to sell lots of books.
Having a store-wide sale, coupled with a sidewalk sale (we’re skipping the tent this year), means a lot of decisions have to get made. The first decision is what books will go outside on the deck and our tiny lawn on sales tables. We’re thinking the steeply discounted books will be outside. Kind of a teaser to bring folks into the store. There needs to be a healthy mix of books, though — some more current titles and some more obscure. Once the titles for outside are decided, they must be coded for the right discount.  Stickers are the easiest way, but if time allows, it’s always best to get the discounts in the computer, so that anyone on staff can know the discount. Admittedly, this is tedious, but it can help give you a really good idea of the number of books you’ve got at the variety of discounts.
Display for the sale books makes a big difference. These are still books, and shouldn’t be treated like rumpled sweaters at a bargain basement. They need to look appealing at all times, which means the table must constantly be refreshed and tidied. I cannot stress this enough. A table with a haphazard scattering of books looks bad and doesn’t invite browsing or sales.
Inside the store we like to have a sales sheet to give to customers, so they can browse freely without having to ask us to check on sale prices. This sales sheet is backed up by highly visible signage in all the sections. This allows for independent shopping and can help avoid confusion about what’s on sale. The mere act of writing the sales sheet helps us see what all the discounts are, thus ensuring that we’ve got a good mix of steep and regular discounts. Every sale needs balance: enticing discounts for shoppers, but a sense for the shopkeeper that you’re not giving too much away.
It’s always funny to me how attached to books I become at sale time. As the sale gets closer I often myself regarding books in a different way. Has it earned its keep? Is it time for this title to go? Or will it cause me pain to see this title go at a steep discount? It’s a process that involves the whole staff. Everyone chimes in with their suggestions and together we put the store on sale, inside and out.
One of the best things about a sidewalk sale is being able to work outside. And you can be sure, if it’s a sunny day, we’ll all be fighting for a shift on the lawn. Look for a blog post next Monday for some photos and a recap of the sale.

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