Indie Bookstores Pivot to Boost Business During COVID-19 Outbreak

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While many independent bookstores are closing their doors to protect their staff and communities during the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), there are a number of ways stores can promote their products and services at this time.

Here are some practices stores around the country have already implemented:

  • Encourage online orders and pre-orders, especially for titles coming out this spring.
  • Encourage customers to purchase gift cards.
  • Promote non-book or higher-margin merchandise.
  • Offer low-cost or free shipping to customers within the neighborhood or nationwide.
  • Staff the phone so customers can not only place orders, but ask a bookseller for suggestions and recommendations.
  • Offer free curbside pickup for customers who place orders online or by phone.
  • Make your store available for private appointments for customers who are feeling well.
  • Post book lists, such as Loyalty Bookstore’s Social Distancing TBR Pile, on social media and e-commerce sites to engage with customers. Stores are creating book/non-book lists around a variety of different topics, including books and merchandise for children who will be home from school for the weeks ahead.
  • Promote the authors whose events the store needed to cancel, like Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York, did on Twitter.
  • Promote subscription services and loyalty programs, as well as e-books and audiobooks.
  • Create discounted, themed “book bundles” around a particular genre, as Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers has.
  • Host online book talks, book club meetings, workshops, and story times through a streaming service.
  • Continue to be active on social media.
  • Share the importance of community, connection, and supporting local businesses at this time.

ABA’s dedicated “Coronavirus Resources for Booksellers” page on BookWeb features a variety of information to help stores through the crisis. Booksellers are welcome to reach out to ABA with any questions or concerns or visit the Bookseller-to-Bookseller Forums to talk with other booksellers.