Spring Cleaning

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 27th, 2010

Spring: it’s the season for out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new. Sunshine and bright air are invigorating, and there’s something about longer hours of daylight that make projects seem easier to tackle. So now is a great time to gussy up your store, take a look at which displays need freshening, which windows need re-dressing, and which spots could use some paint and polish in time for Mother’s Day, Graduation, Father’s Day, and summer tourism.

This post might bore the pants off anyone who isn’t a shopkeeper, but I hope a few of you find rearranging fun. Here’s a tip: if you have a strong co-worker and a blanket, you can move just about any piece of furniture in the store.

Since our move to Shelburne in the fall of 1996, we’ve disliked the placement of our early-reader/chapter-book spinner. It occupied its own Neverland near juvenile science, nature, and history nonfiction, adjacent to the YA and MG and YA Fantasy sections, and about three feet away from the door to the bathroom. Enticing, huh? People found the spinner, sure, but its location was a little dark, a little crowded, and pretty far from its rightful home next to the MG 8-12 and MG Series sections.

Recently, we made some changes to the store arrangement, adding another island case for adult books that allowed us to scoot some other cases over. It was like one of those puzzles where you slide blocks around to try to get one piece in the right spot. Voila! After three and a half years of trying, we made three shelving shifts that suddenly freed up enough room to scoot that chapter book spinner into Middle Grade.

These spinners, filled with books, weigh a LOT. By tilting the spinner and working a blanket underneath its base, two of us managed to move the case. But with the help of that blanket, it was pretty easy work for the two of us to push that sucker out of its spot, maneuver it around a corner and down the aisle to its new home. It worked! Wahoo!

Now kids who aren’t quite ready for full-fledged middle-grade books don’t have to take a walk of shame from that section to get to the books they can read. They can just turn around and find something a little less daunting right nearby. We love that, and so do customers. A regular pronounced the change “brilliant” — an overly generous compliment, but one that proves customers do pay attention and care about all those things, large and small, that make your store what it is.

So don’t wait for a peer review to point out your problems: take a good hard look at those areas you and your staff avoid, the spots of clutter or the sections that aren’t pulling their weight, and try something different. Walk by your store windows and really look at them the way a customer might. (Breeze past in a hurry and see what catches your eye. Then slow down and look at the window from different heights, kid and adult.)

It’s a great time of year to face that one project you’ve been avoiding. Do it on a sunny day, and you might end up with a little extra spring in your bookstore step. Anyone out there cleaning up and making changes?

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