Chad Post’s BEA Experience

Chad’s writeup on BEA 2011 is both tasty and nutritious. It’s very a very upbeat portrayal of the annual show that, in many ways, is the pulse of the industry, and I think that’s a good thing. The last thing Chad is is a bullshitter, and we book people need something to be feeling good about.

There’s all kinds of interesting and possibly useful information at the post, but I’ll pull out this point on the profit margins of bricks-and-mortar bookstores:

7) Bookseller Data: I’m not sure this is good exactly, but I was able to attend the ABACUS Data discussion featuring financial data from a wide range of bookstores. I could go on and on about this (again, longer post later), but basically, this study broke down how much bookstores spend on Cost of Good Sold, Advertising, Salaries, etc., as a way of providing benchmarks and trying to puzzle out what things made some bookstores more successful than others. Bottom line: the profit margin for the top 30% of bookstores was 4.7%, the “profit” margin for the middle 40% was 1.6%, and it was -15.3% for the bottom 30%. This is all terrible, but it’s nice to see real numbers-in part so I can use these in my “Intro to Literary Publishing” class, and in part because we need to be as realistic as possible.

Not sure what’s up with Chad retroactively striking those last two data points, but at the very least 30 percent (and perhaps as much as 70 percent) of these stores are doing well enough to stay in business. That’s great news, because if you look around I doubt you’ll find many industries where currently 70 percent of the retail outlets are making it. I would have guessed much less for bookstores.

And, in my opinion, bricks-and-mortar stores are beginning to get their juice back. We’ve gone through the portion of things where stores that we’d never thought would die have died, and I think there are some very viable options for the ones that are still with us.

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