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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Is our shelf of Minette Walters going to follow me to my grave? Should we get in more literature or more self-help books? Or are books about dreams or crystals or gardening more likely to be the thing?
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).
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.
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?