Two different pieces look at how independent store groups Books & Books and the newly debt-free Joseph-Beth are replacing lost book sales with other business lines. Both groups are looking at smaller-format stores as a potential route to expansion as well.
The Miami Herald has a lengthy piece on Mitchell Kaplan and his evolving strategy for Books & Books. Kaplan has worked hard to determine the lasting value of what he had built, and use it generate more revenue: “Instead of feeling victimized by what was happening in the marketplace, I decided to look at the value we’ve built up over the years and try to transfer it to other things. You have to find ways to monetize the value. Otherwise, you can’t stay relevant.”
That strategy has led to a variety of solutions: Licensing (for Books & Books branded stores in Grand Cayman; West Hampton Beach, NY; the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale and Miami International Airport); a film development partnership with Paula Mazur (Mazur/Kaplan Company is filming an adaptation of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society); strong cafes (which comprise about 25 percent of store sales); more events and non-book items (“like jewelry and decorative bowls”); and selling more books outside of the stores (convention book sales, kid’s book fairs, and corporate sales).
With all of that, store book sales are down “by close to 7 percent from the pre-recession peak, but overall sales have remained relatively flat.” Kaplan tells the Miami Herald, “If I lose some sales, then I will make them up by selling other things. We’re not where we were five years ago, when we didn’t have the kind of competition that we have now. It’s a real testament to Miami that we’re still around.”
His next venture is a smaller format store, The Newstand by Books & Books. It will offer “a dramatically edited selection of books and magazines, along with coffee, tea and frozen yogurt,” with the first stand-alone launching this summer in downtown Miami. Partnering with former Crunch Gym owner Doug Levine, they intend to open five Newstands this year in Miami-Dade County and expand regionally in Florida in 2012.
Herald on Books & Books
New ceo of the smaller Joseph-Beth store group Mark Wilson also has plans to solidify and expand again. Like Books & Books, he sees smaller-format stores of 12,000 square feet or less “in cities or hospitals near the company’s three remaining locations in Cincinnati, Lexington and at the Cleveland Clinic” as a possibility.
At Joseph-Beth book sales now comprise only 45 percent of sales, and music and DVDs have declined to under 3 percent. Growing categories include stationery, greeting cards, candles, handbags, and magazines. Their Bronte Bistro comprises 14 percent of sales. Taking a cue from the Cleveland Clinic store, Wilson expects to add health and fitness products to other stores, including lotions, aromatherapy and yoga products.
Other plans include self-checkout machines and a secret “program aimed to compete with e-books on price.”