ABA Takes Center Stage in Connecticut

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The American Booksellers Association, in conjunction with the New England Booksellers Association (NEBA), held a Booksellers Forum and Education Program on a snowy Tuesday, March 8, from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at new member bookstore Center Stage on Center Street: Books, Beans, and Broadway, in Shelton, Connecticut.

NEBA Executive Director Rusty Drugan said despite the snowstorm, which started in the early afternoon, approximately 20 people attended the forum, though some left once the storm developed. "The nice thing was virtually all the booksellers had not been to an ABA forum before," he said. "There were all new faces and there were owners of new stores or new owners of existing stores."

The program began at 10:00 a.m. with ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz's presentation of the session "Increasing Sales," which focused on strategies for improving a store's profitability. Domnitz discussed strategies for bringing more customers into the store, collecting co-op, selling more to customers once they're through the door, and increasing sales outside the store.

Drugan reported that the "Increasing Sales" session was "very comprehensive and thorough" and "particularly appropriate for the new booksellers, because it covers a wide array of ways to collect co-op, market, and advertise to increase sales."

Katie Utter of Other Tiger in Westerly, Rhode Island, said she gleaned a lot from Domnitz's session and "found the section on co-op particularly helpful." She added, "He spent a lot of time talking about the importance of developing a co-op plan. I look forward to other educational seminars at BEA."

Of Center Stage, Utter said, "It's a beautiful space. It felt a bit like you were in a theater. Because of the dramatic lighting, the whole space has a very upbeat feeling."

ABA Board member Suzy Staubach of UConn Co-op in Storrs, Connecticut, said that the education portion of the day went "very well" and was content rich. "Despite the storm, people were intently interested," she noted.

Following "Increasing Sales," there was an open forum moderated by Domnitz and ABA COO Oren Teicher. Booksellers received an update on ABA programs and initiatives and discussed a number of issues including Book Sense gift cards and BookSense.com.

"We talked about the Book Sense gift card program," said Utter. "The group of booksellers who were using them explained that the cards are easy to use and that they increase sales over gift certificates."

Booksellers also talked about the importance of maintaining an online presence. "BookSense.com has already done the work of creating great sites," said Utter. "We've been thinking about getting one."

Forum participants also discussed the benefits of hosting "Teachers Nights" -- events teachers are invited to attend for a night of snacks and discounted shopping. Utter explained that hosting a "Teachers Night" was a great way to inform educators about various programs available at the bookstore.

A relatively new bookseller, Utter said the education session and forum were especially helpful. "I would highly recommend the forums. It was a wonderful experience. I loved visiting another bookstore and taking the time to meet with other booksellers."

Staubach also enjoyed the day, despite the bad weather. "It was fun to have a forum with so many new booksellers. Everything was exciting and brand new to them." --Karen Schechner