Harvard Book Store Is PW's Bookseller of the Year

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Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard Book Store has won the prestigious 2002 Bookseller of the Year Award from Publisher’s Weekly. "We are overjoyed," said Frank Kramer, owner of the Harvard Book Store. "We work very hard. To get this recognition is very gratifying."

Harvard Book Store has been a landmark in Harvard Square since 1932, the year it was founded by Mark Kramer with $300 borrowed from his parents. Now run by Mark’s son, Frank, the store’s keys to success are the same today as they were 70 years ago: offering book-buyers a broad inventory and excellent customer service. This mission has enabled the store to survive the onslaught of competition from chains and Internet bookstores.

"There was a lot of competition from the Internet," said Kramer. However, that competition spurred Harvard Book Store to work on its Web site, and to also find out what makes a loyal customer, in order to target similar types of customers.

And while the Internet initially posed a threat to the bookstore, in the end, it helped the store secure and maintain customer relationships. Harvard Book Store sends a weekly e-mail broadcast to 15,000 customers. "The Web gives you a chance to maintain e-mail relationships with customers," Kramer explained. "A lot of customers that move away, will often times come back, and we want to make sure they come back to us."

It was just that type of entrepreneurial thinking that won it the PW award. In announcing Harvard Book Store as this year’s winner, a PW article, dated February 27, 2002, said, "In a college town that once had many bookstores, Harvard Book Store has not only survived but thrived." The article cited the store’s focus on "customer relationships" and "one aspect of the plan: the conversion of the manual frequent buyer program to an electronic one. Program customers now carry bar-coded cards and a key-ring tag that provides a record for the store. Harvard Book Store then sends e-mails to many of those people with information about events, bestsellers, special offers, and more."

PW bases its yearly award on a number of factors, including clarity in mission and vision, expertise in buying for its target markets, innovation, successful events, and business efficiency. The winner is picked by a group of industry professionals, including last year’s PW Rep of the Year, Peg O’Donnell of Publishers Group West. Harvard Book Store will be honored at this year’s BookExpo America in New York City. Last year’s winner was Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina.