Thursday, October 16, 2014

do they know it's christmas?

Regular readers will know that many years ago I worked in a record shop.

And on occasion I've recounted a tale or two about how I learned a bit about marketing and selling on the job. 

I never knew the theory in those days, just the practice.

We were a small indie and our range was smaller than the big chains.
There was a lot of top 40 type material that we would have struggled to sell.
We were in a different partition, if you like.

At certain times of year however, we had a bit of an opportunity to sell some stuff that the chains would normally clean up on.

Christmas, for example.

There was a certain type of buyer, and there were lots of them, who were very light category buyers.
They only bought music once a year, sometimes even less.

The 'Christmas number one' was what they bought.
Whichever song was number one in the charts at Christmas.

So we made sure we had a shed load racked out at the till point, so the once a year category buyer could walk straight up, get their CD and get off.

I soon learned not to even try and upsell because they didn't know or want anything else.

The book business is similar, I would imagine.
There's still lots of volume to be had from light category buyers - especially in the bricks and mortar stores.

Even among those who we could call 'buyers of the category' many buy less than one book a year. 

And that one book might be the year's blockbuster. The book equivalent of the Christmas number one. Fifty Shades was probably one of those.

Here's another.

Today the local Tasmanian newspapers ran four or five pages on the spectacular success of local author Richard Flanagan winner of the 2014 Man Booker for The Narrow Road to the Deep North a story about Australian soldiers on the Burma Railway.

Only the fourth Aussie author to win the prize, and the first from Tasmania.

I'm not a novel reader, to be fair, I like factual stuff and biographies.
My wife is though.

Because there's a local connection to where I am working, I nipped over to the main city centre bookshop at lunchtime today to pick up a copy for her, before I go to the airport to go home.

They were sold out.
I was also told that they had only a few in stock at the beginning of the week. 

'It has been out for a year, after all'.

Ever curious, I hung around for 20 minutes as dozens of light category buyers - and some so light they could likely be classified as non-buyers -  filed in for the one book of the year (or decade) they were ever going to buy.

It was was out of stock.
No doubt this has been going on all day.

All day hundreds of shoppers have walked in and out with $30 still in their pocket.
They buy books so infrequently they don't even know what they should expect to pay.
All those books could have been sold at full whack.

It will be back in on Tuesday, though.

By that time the one book a year buyers will get someone to order it online and they will have it delivered by Tuesday (this is Australia. It takes about a week to come from the US or Europe).

Or most likely forgotten about it.

They could have got a pallette load on consignment from the publishers, just in case.

Or a big poster in the window letting people know when it will be restocked and taking orders as a damage limitation tactic.

Have an empty table in the shop where the book would have been. Making it look scarce and popular.

It was on the shortlist.
They had one chance.

And the bookstore will complain about Amazon, killing their business.
They are doing a good job on their own.