As we are increasingly surrounded by signs of autumn — and as we are just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving — I know how much busier things will soon be getting in your stores. With that in mind, there are just a few items I wanted to share with you in advance of the upcoming holiday season.
In recent weeks, it’s become clear that many publishers are concerned about potential inventory shortages in November and December because of difficulties in securing print time due to significantly reduced capacity in the book manufacturing sector. I know they are hard at work to ensure that this doesn’t happen, and, hopefully, the anxieties will not become realities. But I do want you to know that ABA will continue our outreach and strong advocacy with publishing partners to communicate that all key titles should be equitably distributed if there are any inventory shortages.
Regarding holiday inventory, I can’t stress strongly enough that there is still time to take advantage of the special Indies First offers available from many publishers. These special publisher terms include participation from nearly a dozen university presses, and they all can be applied to a wide array of frontlist and backlist titles. The terms are available during various time periods between now and January 2019.
Next week, the stores that participated in the new ABACUS financial survey will begin receiving their custom reports. As you review your report, you will see once again that overall, our channel has seen a positive increase in gross margin, which is contributing directly to an improvement in the bottom line. We know that one of the key factors in these gains are improvements in terms and policies, which have come about following ongoing discussions between ABA and individual publishers. The Indies First special offers are a prime example of this success, and a real opportunity to decrease your cost of goods sold.
But we also know that many stores are not yet taking full advantage of these special Indies First offers, and that they are leaving money on the table. ABA President Robert Sindelar put it well when he wrote in his most recent letter to the membership in BTW, “The ease of using so many of these offers has changed dramatically and many can be used multiple times. So, yes, it is in your store’s best interest to take advantage of some of these deals as they will impact your bottom line.”
As you take a strategic look at how to improve your store’s profitability, ABA understands that controlling costs is essential — and moving the needle on occupancy and payroll is difficult. However, taking maximum advantage of the Indies First special offers for the holiday season can definitely lower your cost of goods for the critical fourth quarter and deliver dollars to your bottom line.
To be sure, we also understand that even with the changes we have seen in publishers’ terms, co-op, and the improvements in the Indies First (and Indies Introduce) special offers, there remains much to be done in our work with individual publishers in fashioning a 21st-century business model for independent bookselling that works to bookstores’ and publishers’ mutual benefit. I can assure you that remains a major ABA priority.
However, your use of the Indies First special offers — and the participation in these offers by many more of your bookselling colleagues — will not only help individual store profitability, it will also provide ABA greater credibility and influence in our ongoing discussions with individual publishers of all sizes, much improving the likelihood of continued significant industry-wide changes.
As this issue of BTW is being e-mailed to you, there are 17 days until Small Business Saturday, November 24. You don’t need me to tell you what an important day this has become on the calendar — for in-store traffic, publicity, and, importantly, sales. And ABA is particularly thrilled about this year’s Indies First on Small Business Saturday. Spokesperson par excellence Jason Reynolds has again offered inspired leadership, and to support his mission of providing children in low-income communities with access to books that reflect their own experiences, the American Booksellers Association and American Express are working together with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing to make available 20,000 special-edition copies of Ghost, the first book in Reynolds’ New York Times bestselling Track series, this holiday season. Through the #IndiesGiveBack initiative, participating independent booksellers will distribute “Indies First/Small Business Saturday” paperback editions of Ghost to children on or around Small Business Saturday.
This year, more than ever, Small Business Saturday offers indie bookstores an opportunity to highlight the unique role they play in their communities. Even if you are not part of the #IndiesGiveBack campaign, I urge you to make the most of Small Business Saturday with whatever special programming or customer outreach makes sense for you. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.
And, finally, further along in this issue of BTW, there is a notice about a critically important survey we are asking you to complete about access to health insurance. For years, ABA members have hoped that ABA could provide access to affordable health insurance, and recent changes in the federal law may put us in a position to do so. Filling out the questionnaire is a step in that direction. An e-mail with a link to the survey was sent to one member at each store. Check your inbox for an e-mail with the subject line “ABA’s Health Insurance Initiative.”
Have a great holiday season!
Oren J. Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association