Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Recession Fuels Sales at Spring Book Show

By Edward Nawotka

Despite a last minute change of venue the Spring Book Show held in Atlanta this past weekend suffered few consequences and proceeded smoothly. Larry May, director of the Show, scrambled to move the remainder fair from its former home in the World Congress Center after learning it had been significantly damaged by tornados late last month. Fortunately the Atlanta Hilton – where most of the attendees were staying – was able to accommodate the group.

“We only lost about five tables of display space,” he says, “any negative impact of the change has been very marginal.”

Yes, the aisles were a bit tighter and the show was now spread out over three levels of the hotel, but everyone seemed more comfortable in the Hilton than the cavernous Georgia World Congress Center.

“I prefer it here,” said Darlene Carter, a sales representative with wholesaler Maximus Books. “The show was overwhelmed by the size of the conference center. It’s nice to have everything in one place together and not have to walk for 15 minutes to buy a cup of coffee.”

Barry Baird, executive director remainders and bargain books at Thomas Nelson, concurred. “Being here in the basement is more like CIROBE – more intimate and intense. It has a bazaar like feel that I like and feel is better suited to selling.”

The recession appears to have made bargain books even more attractive to booksellers and buyers, many of whom were bolstering their orders.

Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC and president of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, explained: “Books of all kinds become a bargain during a recession -- $100 in books doesn’t look so bad, when compared with say, a trip to Puerto Rico.”

Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore in Atlanta, told PW he was surprised by how much high quality GLBT material among the remainder dealers. “I bought more than I thought I would,” he said, adding “I will be having a sidewalk sale for weeks.”

Deborah Hastings, publisher of Federal St. Press, credits the recession with increasingly interest in her affordable line of dictionaries and

“People are always looking for quality content at a value price,” said Hastings, who has differentiated her dictionaries by adding bright, bold graphics to the covers. “They appeal to consumers who favor higher and design, such as those shoppers at nontraditional booksellers like Target,” she said.

While Hastings felt consolidation resulted in fewer retailers, wholesalers, distributors at the show than she’d seen in past years, she pointed out that numerous foreign buyers were on hand, as well as a conspicuous number of Internet-only booksellers.

“The low cost of remainders allows them to take on a substantial amount of stock, with lower capital investment,” explained Larry May. “They can put together a complete inventory at relatively low cost.”

John Shableski, sales manager of Diamond Book, a graphic novel distribution company selling remainders for the first time at the show, was the most effusive of all in his praise.

“Larry May is a visionary,” said Shableski. “He saw the potential in graphic novel remainders early and jumped on it.” Granted, Shableski’s enthusiasm may have something to do with the fact that Diamond’s graphic novels proved to be among the hottest commodities all weekend: A rumor spread that Shableski sold Diamond’s entire stock of remainders in only a few hours.

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