Tuesday morning January 20, 2020
Every gardener knows good pruning is healthy for plants. Removing dead branches, stalks or leaves opens up the organism for light and new growth.
I’m driving up to Hagerstown. Travis is behind the wheel.
It is a cold bright winter day. I awoke to 61 degrees inside and 17 degrees outside. The wood stove had pushed the ambient temperature inside up 44 degrees. And I wasn’t even trying. There was a colorful dawn outside the bedroom window.
We are driving over South Mountain on Interstate 70. We will pass under the footbridge for the Appalachian Trail high above the highway. The next valley will open up before us. Western Maryland has a series of ridges that run generally north to south. Between the ridges are the lush valleys that attracted settlers here.
We need to pull a lot of music books for a movie set. I hope we can cull 40 or 50 linear feet of old/stale or duplicated stock. It is kind of fun doing this. It is physically active—pulling hundreds books from as low as the floor to as high as atop the 8-foot standard height we have traditionally had for our wooden bookcases.
It feels good to purge these kinds of books. Many of these I look at and wonder how they ever got sent to the stores. Who?!?!
Holding many in my hands I can tell precisely why they have never sold.
We will be making spaces for better offerings to our customers I hope.
We also need to prune paperback literature and mystery books for other orders. A LOT of sci-fi. A WHOLE LOT of mystery. Paperbacks we usually sell “by the box.” I’m not sure where all these will be going. Sometimes schools buy them by the box. Sometimes prisons. Sometimes…we don’t know why people order boxes of paperbacks from us.
This will also be therapeutic for the stores because I’m certain there are a lot of duplicate bestsellers in mystery. Grisham, Patterson, Christie… It seems every time I look at a mystery section in a store we have a few dozen Stieg Larsson “Girl Who…” titles. Do they multiply themselves? I caution the folks who send books to the stores not to send many copies of mega bestsellers. The demand is relatively low because so many people have already read these books. The supply is so high because so many people bought the books when they were atop the bestseller lists.
Supply and demand. It is what makes the retail world continue spinning—even the used book retail world.
Classics tend to get too many copies of writers like Mark Twain, Jack London, Jane Austen…even though they sell well. Without “pruning” we end up with dozens of Huck Finn and Sense and Sensibility.
HOWEVER…I won’t be culling The Call of the Wild. During the football games last weekend, I saw the ads for Harrison Ford in the new movie. I’m anticipating a run on the Jack London books.
When the recent Little Women movie proved to be a hit, those Alcott books disappeared from our shelves. The store managers began requesting more Little Women. They’ve never asked for that before. When the movie’s popularity dies down, I’m sure Little Women will start multiplying on the shelves again.
(Ummm…that doesn’t sound very good does it…)
The stores always have way too much Shakespeare. With his works (if “he” actually wrote them all), it isn’t a question of a few shelves of his books. It is lots of shelves of his books. I am guessing there will be one and half bookcases loaded with the Bard at the Hagerstown store. How many Hamlets are too many?
Some “classic” authors are dreadful sellers nowadays, and our shelves always tend to accumulate far too many copies. There’s not much demand for Henrik Ibsen and Sinclair Lewis in 2020. They were popular and widely read in schools long ago—so a lot of copies of their works come in. And they don’t sell.
Tuesday early afternoon:
We are driving back.
Wow! That was a workout! But the results will be great. There were hundreds of old music books that are far better suited for this project than for our store customers’ wants and needs.
We pulled a few thousand books off shelves and dropped them in large plastic tubs.
(The plastic tubs are “recycled” as well. Many customers bring us their unwanted books in plastic tubs and don’t want them back. We get so many that periodically we set a few hundred outside our dockyard gates. We post a Craig’s List ad for “Free Tubs.” They soon disappear.)
Here’s a before picture of the Hagerstown music sections.
There was an additional exciting benefit to this purge as well.
The music section in this store has long been an issue as they’ve been stocked on 6-inch deep shelves. Many music books are coffee-table size and were constantly falling off these shallow bookcases. This magnificent purge means we will be able to relocate the whole section to some underutilized 12-inch deep shelves in another part of the 10,000 square foot shop. Everything will be reorganized into musical subgenres.
It will be much better for the customers, the team members and…the books.
And all these stale music books in the tubs will go to someone who can actually use them–for their looks.
We filled the van.
Floor to ceiling. Side to side. Front to back…with plastic tubs full of culled stock.
Ernest is pulling the same stuff at the Frederick store today as well.
Both stores will be refreshed in the coming weeks.
Win, win, win, win.
The interior designer.
The bookstore customers.
And the books.
Thursday–Early Afternoon, January 24
I’m driving back from Hagerstown. No, I haven’t been there for all three days.
Wednesday I went to the Gaithersburg store and culled their music section.
I rode up this morning with David driving.
This was the pull list I was given today.
There was urgency for the rest of the music. Though we had pulled heavily at all three stores Tuesday and Wednesday, we were still short of the 120 linear feet ordered. It has to ship tomorrow for a big Hollywood movie. Initially the parameters were: classical music, history of music, how to play music… The designers wanted no rock or very modern music.
Yesterday afternoon we had to push the designers to include dance and musical theater if we were to fill the order and meet their deadline.
Sometimes we are able to pull books from our internet stock. This works well for especially specific requests. With over 2.5 million books online, we have a lot of all subjects. The hard part is pulling by subject. Our internet shelves are completely random. We stock the books as they are added regardless of subject. I tell people that want to come to the warehouse to shop that the books are only organized in cyberspace. So, a history can end up next to a novel next to a cookbook next to… To pull from our internet stock by subject, we kind of have to be stealthy. We do “searches” of our own website for Ireland or Caribbean or…whatever is being requested. We then send pullers out to snipe the books one at a time.
But it’s much easier to pull books already shelved together in a section. So this week we thinned the music sections at all 3 stores pretty heavily. But like a hole dug in sand on the beach, the shelves will fill back in quickly.
So, over three days the music sections had a severe pruning.
This is the Hagerstown music bookcases after the secondary culling.
(Actually it hasn’t been emptied as much as it looks. Remember, I decided to move the music sections to deeper bookcases in another part of the store. The larger books were always falling off of these. We already moved books that were already on the floor.)
On Monday I had gone to the Frederick store. At that time there were small orders for classic and mystery paperbacks.
As the week progressed, we got more orders for mass-market paperbacks by subjects. Sci-fi and mystery/adventure.
The big music order was just “potential” on Monday. I needed to get an estimate of how much we could pull. The original request was 400 linear feet. That would have been impossible to do in 3 days.
To give you an idea of scale…how high are the ceilings in the room you’re reading this in? 8 feet? 10? 400 linear feet would be 40-50 floor-to-ceiling stacks of music books!
I do this every day–missing around with thousands of books. The whirlwind is so often consuming that things sometimes don’t sink in til I settle down.
That is a LOT of music books!
It is Thursday late afternoon.
Tonight I’m going to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin speak at the beloved Weinberg Theater in Frederick.
I’m not sure what Friday will bring. We often have Friday surprises it seems. Some emergency or urgent orders.
We do need a lot more mystery paperbacks.
There is also a 200-foot order for popular trade paperbacks (Think The Kite Runner, Stieg Larsson, Life of Pi, Oprah Picks …)
There’s a 3-foot order of skiing books that we can get too.
If I allow myself to have “fun” tomorrow, I’ll go to one of the stores and be a good gardener. I’ll prune the dead wood so fresh growth has space.
The designer book manager just emailed this exotic request:
Color/subject combos that people are requesting—Can we do?
4′ Snow White
Subjects: Tattoos, surfing, fishing, FL, Sailing, Cars, Sports, Artists, Animal/Nature, and Pinup Girls.
How would you suggest handling these if we’re unable to check colors at the stores?
I think unless basic it’s going to be very hard to combine color and subject since they always seem to want random stuff. Fishing and surfing in blue, sure. In aqua specifically? Sigh.
How do we find a teal tattoo title?
Can we do this?
How much time do we have?
Hmmm…I’ll think about it over night.
We have been looking for ways to broaden the types of things we sell.
The books are doing fine in the stores.
But after 35 years of renting movies, it is becoming clear that that service is likely doomed.
I’ve been putting aside posters for decades. They’ve been too hard to display. And they are fragile.
We have been adding a lot of prints and engravings and ephemera to the stores in the last year. A couple managers have been doing a great job displaying them.
I’ve decided to “wallpaper” the Frederick store with posters in large plastic bags. I think the result will be impressive. Eye candy.
If they sell—great!
If not, at least they got exposed.
This past weekend I went through some rolled up items that have been in my office for years. There were a couple surprises.
This one made me laugh.
Who was that guy?
He had a mustache for many, many years. Primarily it was because of a baby face. The mustache, he felt, gave him more “gravitas.”