Who are you really

We did a survey in August, September and October to find out more about who visits our store. We had a hypothesis that there were four types of customers:

  • People who live nearby

  • People who work nearby

  • People who were just strolling along Ponsonby Road, and

  • People who often visit bookstores.

We ended up with 247 responses. It was easier to get people who bought something to fill it in, rather than people that we could not tempt to make a purchase, and so 204 of the 247 were customers.

Data! Look what it is possible to know! Some graphs below. Some surprising things:

  • People who had never been here before make up about 60 per cent of our respondents. This seems super high. It seems like there is great potential to boost the number of customers.

  • Nearly two thirds of people said that they had no previous knowledge that we were here and just popped in as they happened to be walking past. This also seems super high. About fifteen per cent of people found us online, about ten per cent came our way from word of mouth.

  • People who often visit bookstores made up nearly half of our respondents. Forty per cent were just strolling on Ponsonby Road. About a quarter were local residents, and about 10 per cent worked in Ponsonby.

  • Nearly sixty per cent of our customers live in Auckland, with another 19 per cent visiting from elsewhere in New Zealand and a little under a quarter from overseas.

  • Half of our customers came on foot, forty per cent in a car, and only one in ten on public transport. God bless the one per cent who came by bicycle too (my preferred means of transportation).

We split the results by day of the week and by how much customers spent, but there were no obvious trends. Note that for some of the questions people could tick more than one options, so the totals add to more than 100 per cent.

These results make us more focused on improving signage out the front (which has long been on the list) to tempt more people who are just walking by.

Novelty rules

We have been looking recently at the question of what types of books sell best. We have no shortage of hypotheses. But the number of potential variables make it hard to do the analysis, let alone find any general guide.

Now we think we might have found one useful rule.

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Above average

In June we made 322 sales for a total revenue (including GST to make the numbers relatable) of $8,522. This means the average sale was $26.50, a bit above our usual of around 23 dollars. (Basically people usually buy about two books and they cost about 12 bucks each.)

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The view from 52 weeks

The bookstore generates a lot of data. Amongst other things, we know sales numbers, revenue, what kinds of books we sold, and how much each customer spent, as well as social media interaction, traffic to the website and the number of subscribers to our excellent podcast, Ears Wide Open.

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All our Christmases

December is the best month of the year for revenue at the Open Book. December 2017 was our best month ever and we made $11,000 (!), about 60 per cent more than October or November. Breakeven at the moment (with me donating two days a week to the store) is around $7,500.

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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.

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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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