Friday, July 18, 2008

Houston's Brazos Launches $1,000 Loyalty Program

By Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 7/17/2008 7:17:00 AM

In 2006, more than a dozen investors contributed a minimum of $10,000 each to purchase Houston’s Brazos Bookstore.

“Since then,” said manager Jane Moser, “I’ve had so many customers come up to me and say they would have liked to have been able to invest in the store themselves. Of course, we can’t do that now so we’re doing something different.”

This week Brazos introduced a new multi-level loyalty program. Dubbed “Friends of Brazos,” annual membership starts at the $50 “Manuscript Level,” which bestows an invitation to one private author event, an evening with publishers' sales reps previewing forthcoming titles, and 20% off any in stock title four times a year. Subsequent levels, including “Paperback Level” ($150) and Hardcover Level ($500), offer more private functions, such as author dinners, and additional discounts. Membership tops out at the “First Edition Level” which costs $1,000 and offers, in addition to other benefits, a ticket to the UP Experience (a day-long seminar held in Houston in February that features featuring 20 speakers and is modeled on the TED [Technology Enterntainment Design] conference). “We can’t compete nose to nose with the chains on discounts, so we’re doing something different,” said Moser.

Asked if customers might balk at the idea of a $1,000 loyalty membership, Moser acknowledged that it might seem like a lot, “until one realizes The First Edition level is actually a bargain, considering a ticket to the UP Experience alone costs $1,000.”

The intention is to boost revenue while simultaneously making customers, quite literally, more invested in shopping in the store. “It’s a tough business,” said Moser. “We think anyone who becomes a Friend of Brazos is getting a lot for their money. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

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