Remembering the Maine Forum

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On Wednesday, April 20, ABA held its first-ever spring Booksellers Forum in Maine, the second event of the season in cooperation with the New England Booksellers Association (NEBA). The event, at the Portland Public Library, included ABA's education session "Renegotiating a Lease" and an open forum discussion. ABA staff in attendance included ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, COO Oren Teicher, and Associate Director of Book Sense Marketing Meg Smith.

The two-hour session "Renegotiating a Lease" is an outgrowth of the popular "The 2% Solution" seminar. Domnitz presented the program, which explored how carefully monitoring industry trends, paying attention to the local real estate market, and maintaining a dialogue with a landlord puts booksellers in a better position to control their occupancy expenses.

The topic was particularly relevant to Laurie St. Pierre of Book Burrow in Auburn, Maine, whose store is currently renegotiating two leases -- one as landlord and one as tenant. "The session was so helpful. Avin always does a wonderful job, so I try to go to as many of these things as possible. [The information] gives us a norm -- we can now determine what is unreasonable and what's expected. I don't know if we'll be able to carry out all the ideas successfully, but he hit on some very good points."

Although Donna Williams of The Book Review in Falmouth, Maine, is not currently renegotiating a lease, she found the discussion of interest. "ABA is on the right track spending time on that issue. Based on the information [presented by Domnitz] that compensation and occupancy make up 51 percent of a bookstore's expenses, it is good to focus on these expenses so critical to a store's success."

The forum discussion touched on different components of the Book Sense programs and various ABA initiatives including gift cards, ABA's affinity programs, and the finer points of ABA's website,

Williams told BTW that the opportunity to get together in a room with other booksellers in the region is always one of the most beneficial parts of any ABA or NEBA event. Even after 25 years in the business, she said, "Someone will always raise an issue that you may not have thought about, or explore it from a new angle. [At this forum], I learned from other booksellers specifically about the advantages of participating in the ABA-sponsored Fed Ex shipping program. I haven't explored it as I should -- now I will. Having other booksellers describe things is sometimes better than always reading about them. During the presentation, we were all able to look at the BookWeb site and see all the information that is available there. I wouldn't have explored [the site] on my own, but now I know where to find certain things."

The positive discussion about Book Sense gift cards by current participants, such as Tom Holbrook of RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, had a significant influence on Williams, who had been "ambivalent" about the program. "Enough people using them seemed very enthusiastic, so I now think it's worth exploring."

To read a report on ABA's first New England area forum, go to --Nomi Schwartz