Our store has been leaving money on the table. We’re finally catching up to a trend that other retailers have known for some time. There’s a category of product that people actually prefer to buy in person from brick-and-mortar bookstores: children’s books.

Sue Smith, CBA Board Chairman

Now, it isn’t like we’ve been ignoring kids’ books. We do a weekly story time, and every summer, we draw kids into the store with a summer reading program. Plus, children love to visit the wooden train table in the corner of the department. We even launched an effort with Christian schools to rival a popular ABA book club magazine business. But we’ve still been missing some basics on children’s bookselling.

Here are the facts according to recent studies by Nielsen:

  • In ABA bookstores, children’s books account for 34 percent of sales, slightly more than adult fiction.
  • 39 percent of all dollars spent on children’s books come from 5- to 8-year-olds.
  • Books for 7- to 12-year-olds are primarily purchased as impulse items, usually because these products were requested directly by the child.
  • 80 percent of YA novels are purchased by adults, with the majority being for adults themselves.

So we’re making some changes to our children’s department. Our product selection wasn’t balanced, so we’re making more room for picture books and titles for young readers. We’re featuring more books for 7- to 12-year-olds in higher traffic areas of the store. We’ve placed more children’s books near the register, eye level with kids. And we’re moving our shelving units around so we can get the train table into the middle of books that would appeal to the kids playing there.

Perhaps the biggest change though is in our decision to offer more ABA titles alongside our Christian market mainstays. Our store has been experimenting with books by Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems for a little while, and guess what? People are buying them. We’re just down the road from Barnes & Noble and a large indie ABA bookseller, but people are still buying these titles from us. So we’re going to offer more.

Family-friendly books are no-brainers, but we’re going one step further. Some of the titles we’re bringing in may offend some of our customers: books with grittier storylines, rougher characters, maybe even some magic. But we’re going to vet every ABA title that we sell with a book review outlining the content within. Our belief is that parents will know what’s best for their children, so we’re giving them tools to make the best decisions for their family. Our store motto is that we love to sell a good book. And with children’s books, we want to sell them smarter. It’s time to pick up the money left on that table.

Sue Smith, CBA Board Chairman

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