March 24, 2017 11:18:34
Posted By DMB
As some of our customers know our annual sales for the last 3 years or so have been motivated by our need to drastically reduce our stock by October 2017, at which time we must relinquish half our retail space to our beloved landlord. It is for this reason that we offered our entire stock priced at $150.00 and less at 70% off. The traditional sales in the used and rare trade have always been 50% off, excepting when firms are closing or moving. Final sales have generally started at 50% and finished at 90% off with the detritus being free or shipped to the Goodwill. At 70% off a very high percentage of our stock will be sold at a loss.
We know of no other examples of a carefully built and weeded antiquarian stock such as ours where such draconian discounts have applied during the entire week long sale period. Our system of from $150 to $400 at half price and over $400 at 30% off is the more usual systems used by booksellers.
But more pertinent, and perhaps generally unknown outside the trade, is the fact that when used bookstores have sales they are authentic sales. Every day we see advertisements in the media or in store windows offering fantastic savings “up to 70% off” or whatever. Investigation reveals that those high levels exist for only a small percentage of the stock, in small amounts which are quickly sold. Some businesses buy cheap goods as sale loss leaders, others manufacture cheap (and often shoddy) goods specifically for sales. It is understood that these ploys are simply legitimate business practices. But very few people realize that the sales conducted by used bookstores are, and always have been, true sales: the book that was $100 yesterday is $50 today. But the real significance in used book sales is that the offerings are unique, one of a kind. There are usually no replacements and the book you buy could often be a sleeper – a bargain – at its full price. The reason you get it at half price is that the dealer needs money or space and he is sacrificing his treasures for that reason. There is nothing phony going on.
It seems to also be a common belief outside the trade that many dealers raise their prices before sales. I can only say that in 50 years as a bookseller I have never seen a single case of that. If it were tried one would need 6 months extra work just to prepare.
Now, with 6 months to go we have been offering entire subject sections of our stock for sale as lots, at very desirable prices. So far, we have sold our entire stock of children’s books, very painful for me, since children’s books had become my most pleasurable area and I have been buying heavily in children’s books for several years. This is, of course, another of the many reasons booksellers die broke. I make a large and very necessary sale and immediately begin whining about my terrible loss. But that’s the double-edged sword that booksellers must deal with. We love what we must sell. My father, the banker, had lots to say about that.
However, a lady friend gave me a solution to that problem when I told her I was having difficulty getting rid of clothes I never wore. “It’s an excuse to buy new ones,” she said.
This weekend there is a paper show and I will be buying heavily to replace my beloved children’s books.