Above the Treeline Software Looks to Help Booksellers' Bottom Line

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John Rubin, a former management consultant who made his living working with huge corporations such as FedEx and Nabisco, is now hoping to help independent booksellers. Rubin's company, Rubin Venture Consulting, recently rolled out its new online software product, Above the Treeline, a tool meant to help bookstores improve finances by controlling inventory costs and increasing staffing efficiency.

The idea to create the software, Rubin said, came while helping his mother, Roberta Rubin, who owns The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Illinois. "After being a management consultant for 10 years, I started [Rubin Venture Consulting] -- and also started helping my mother," he told BTW. "Our goal was to improve cash flow."

It quickly became apparent to Rubin that few good tools were available to help booksellers analyze operational performance and create operationally focused forecasts and budgets. Inspired in part by ABA's ABACUS survey, Rubin set out to create his software product, Above the Treeline.

"The 1999 ABACUS survey noted that for the average store, 63 percent of total assets are inventory, and 62 percent of controllable expenses are staff costs," said Rubin, who designed his software, which bookstores access via the Internet, to make it easier for booksellers to track these particular costs.

For inventory tracking, the software tracks turns for each category in the store, allowing a bookstore to create a budgeted inventory value for each section of the store by forecasting sales and developing turn targets. Since Above the Treeline links to the store's POS system, the amount of inputting required of the bookseller is minimal, said Rubin, and the information can be accessed online at any time.

The software will also let the bookseller gauge the store's staffing efficiency for as many areas of the store as desired, Rubin continued. Here, the bookseller needs to input staffing schedules and wages. The system also offers participating stores the ability to share and view data to better understand their own performance and where to focus efforts to improve, he added.

To use the software, stores set up a report which runs automatically each day and provides the information required by the Above the Treeline system. From there, the booksellers can send the file to Rubin weekly or monthly. Essentially, the only requirement of a bookstore is that it has access to the Internet and uses a SquareOne, WordStock, IBID, or Books-in-Store POS system. Rubin added that, within two to three months, the product would expand to include "all point-of-purchase systems."

At present, four booksellers, including The Book Stall, are using the product, Rubin reported, and two more are in the process of getting the software up and running. For more information about Above the Treeline, contact John Rubin at (734) 995-0635,via e-mail at john.rubin@rvcons.com or visit www.insite-books.com.