Bundling up

In September we made 274 sales. In November it was 268, practically the same. But revenue was over $1,000 more in November than September. The difference was in average spend per customer, which we call basket value.

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A tale of two sales

We hold a sale every three months. We take all the boxes of clearance books from the shed and put them on display. They are five bucks each or five for ten dollars. A steal. Between times we funnel good books that won't fit on the shelves into the clearance boxes and move on the less good ones, in preparation for the next sale.

We had a sale on a super stormy Saturday July 22. And we had another one this past weekend, a rain-early-but-then-clearing Saturday October 28.

The table below compares numbers from the two days.

July 22 October 28
Sales transactions 110 55
Books sold 357 246
Revenue $2,155 $1,135
Facebook reach 13,789 3,696
People who said they were interested 352 181
People who said they were coming 67 23

You can see that in July we had twice as many sales and made just under twice as much revenue as the October sale.

One reason why might be that the Facebook advertising in July had much greater reach than October. We spent $15 in July and twice that last month. The advertising was essentially identical. So something happened in July that caused people to share it much more than in October.

The graph below shows some metrics derived from the sales numbers above.

You can see that:

  • We made less revenue per book but we moved more books per sale (four and a half books per person is a lot: the average in ordinary time is around two). This indicates that we sold relatively more clearance books and fewer full-priced books in the October sale.

  • We also had a higher revenue per sale overall in October. Combined with the large number of books per sale, this says to me that the sale worked, i.e., the very cheap books encouraged people to spend more than they otherwise would. It might also mean that our clearance books were better quality this time around. We certainly had more books (52 boxes compared with about 40) and they were better arranged inside the store.

  • And perhaps we had fewer people show up who are more inclined to buy full priced books. One influence could have been greater competition as a result of it also being National Bookshop Day, which meant that there were lots of other book-related things for book-keen people to do on that day.

Business is a constant process of theorising about ultimate causes while blundering around trying to plug the obvious holes. In summary, we know that:

  • Something good happened with the Facebook ad in July that did not happen in October.

  • The better weather in October did not obviously help (maybe terribly stormy weather in July made bookshopping more appealing).

  • We had more people inclined to buy clearance books in October than July.

  • And even at half the size of the July version, overall the sale was a success, bringing in about five days' revenue in one day.

The next sale will be on Saturday January 27 next year. Adding another data point to the series will doubtless help in generating more hypotheses, if nothing else.

Overcoming obscurity

We are getting to the end of the beginning of this bookstore journey. The big physical changes are mostly made. The books are less numerous, better quality, and more orderly. We have run a few events and hired out the space a few times. The space is ready for people. The question is how to get them along.

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Straight from the horse's mouth

We post a book of the day on Facebook and on our website every day. We recently switched from posting to Facebook via the website to posting directly to Facebook. This means a little extra work: we have to create each post twice. But it turns out that content that we post directly gets nearly three times as much visibility on Facebook.

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Out of this world

Our brand promise is Out of this World. One of the ways we deliver on that promise is through our instore environment. Right on Ponsonby Road, but a million miles away in hustle and bustle. Here is the original wonky walkthrough video I sent to Julie a year ago. And another version I shot just now (I walked a bit quicker the second time soz).

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We have a clear goal for the bookstore: to increase revenues to the point where we can cover our costs with staffing for seven days a week. Roughly that means doubling revenue from when we took it over. One thing that makes it hard to know how we are going is the volatility in the numbers. They jump around rather a lot.

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Far to go

When we started we knew that the store lost a small amount of money most months, and did best in the summer. We knew that sales had been pretty consistent in the past couple of years, but were about three times higher ten years ago. We also knew how much the store spent and on what. And we had a good idea of what books were in stock. So how are we tracking, four months in?

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