Support African American Bookstores. Here’s why.
Someone called my bookstore looking for the Isis Papers. Of course, Color Book Gallery is not only closing, it is a Children’s Bookstore – so, we didn’t have the Isis Papers in stock. As such, I referred the caller to the 2 remaining general African American bookstores in Philly – Black and Nobel and Hakims. Why? Because titles like the Isis Papers, Mis-Education of the Negro, etc., are books that really speak to our people and as such, will mostly likely be in stock at African American bookstores.
But, African American bookstores, just like many retailers and local small businesses, continue to struggle to stay open. But they will always be needed. Not everything or everyone will do business online or at big-box stores. Stores are always opening. I give tips for opening a bookstore, gift shop or specialty boutiques in my workshop or as a future webinar. Sign up here.
So, here are some tips to support African American bookstores – or other small independent stores:
1. Shop there. Don’t keep passing by. Stop in and see what they have to offer. Don’t wait until Christmas holiday season to shop. Shop year-around for yourself and for gifts.
2. Stop trying to barter the price. Do you barter at the Barnes and Noble? Small businesses have typically paid a higher wholesale price, so there is limited room for profit.
- In their effort to please you, you are hurting them, they are hurting themselves and also the many employees that small businesses employ.
3. Are you an Author or have a product that would fit in the store? Have your book release at the African American bookstores first. Not only will their customers find you and your book, your followers will also be introduced to the bookstore. Just think, if you are famous, like Steve Harvey, Oprah, or Kanye and you wrote a book, everyone would buy the book no matter where it was sold. So, why not release it initially through the small bookstores? Look at this non-book example to get my point across.
- Just think, if Patti Labelle sold her sweet potato pies at the small stores, even if just for the initial release, there would be so many small businesses that would have turned the corner last year – instead, only Walmart made millions on her pies. So, if not the initial release, then why not consider after it became famous, moving the distribution to the local market.
4. Doing a community project that provides books? Are you a local school or child care center needing books. Order them through the local African American bookstore. Even though the books are not in stock, if the staff have the means, a suggested book list can be created and ordered for you. Local stores can order any book or product, we just choose to specialize or we have limited funds, thus we focus on keeping specific titles in stock.
- With a bulk order, a small store may be able to get a better wholesale price and pass the discount on to you.
- Also, be prepared to put down a deposit (at least 50%) or pre-pay in full. Small businesses do not have a large reserve to cover for bulk orders. This assures them that you will follow through with the purchase and that they will not get left with titles that they would not typically have in stock.
5. Stop trying to change the store. The owner had a plan for their store that they gave deep thought, research, and effort. Support that plan.
- Expanding their strategy to fit the demands of the customer (because they have been told the customer is always right) – can also set them on a downward spiral by stretching into unfamiliar territory.
- If you really need another product, there is another small business somewhere that is looking for you as their newest customer. You can support both businesses.
- It is for this very reason that I developed my workshop. So many customers wanted, Color Book Gallery, my multicultural children’s bookstore, to be a Black Bookstore, gift shop, adult bookstore, educational supply store, toy store, etc. These are all different stores that can separately make it on their own and I can teach you or anyone else, just what is needed to open that store.
Let’s do all we can to support our businesses and our communities.