|Stocking the new and novel|
|Written by Staff|
|Tuesday, 08 October 2013 10:27 AM America/New_York|
Some stores cater to fiction readers while others limit the category’s shelf space
Christian retailers have found themselves in a quandary, trying to decide how much fiction to carry with the advent and acceleration of e-books—which are also now available in physical stores. Fiction readers are repeat customers and often get wrapped up in a series, so stores that want their ongoing business must be continually prepared. We asked several retailers if the fiction reader is a customer they cater to, and if so, how much and what type of fiction they stock. Take a look at the following to see how they responded:
Because the primary customer that comes to my door is female, a lot of the fiction is geared toward them, which would include romance and things like that. … The fiction that I like is for guys more than it is for gals, a lot of action and people that have found themselves in some sort of predicament that God has helped them with. I think fiction is really a study in how faith has helped other people through situations and being able to apply that to the situation that you find yourself in. It’s a very practical faith as opposed to, let’s all go to church on Sunday and teach Sunday school.
We also have a used fiction section where people bring their Christian fiction into us and we buy it from them and give them script that they can use any place in the store and then we resell those used books. We’ve been doing that for about three or four years now, and it’s been a big boost to our fiction section.
Bill Carlson, Owner, Lamp Post Christian Bookstore, Coldwater, Mich.
We do carry fiction. We carry almost everything that’s coming out from the Christian publishers these days. Where at one time we had a 4 foot section of fiction, now we have probably at least 24 feet in our regular fiction section, plus we highlight the newest books behind the counter and we also have a best-selling wall and we highlight all of the top 10 best-selling fiction on that. … We have quite a few Amish in our area, so a lot of people like to read the Amish fiction especially.
Karen Grosse, Owner, Lighthouse Christian Books, Green Bay, Wis.
We carry a wide selection of fiction, from general to historical to romance to suspense. Fiction is a key area of our book sales. Fiction is a consumable, and we see many customers buying series of fiction books and many simply buying fiction on a frequent basis. Fiction book sales equate to 10% of our overall sales. Books as a category make up 32% of our overall sales with Bibles making up a further 10% of sales.
Mark Hutchinson, President, Blessings chain, Canada
We carry 36 linear feet in the fiction department alone. I say it that way as we carry a strong line of used fiction along with a nice selection of bargain fiction. … I work with the publishers we “normally” work with, but I also listen to recommendations by readers that shop at the store, but also different websites that sometimes have a good lead on a book.
We are strongest in Historical and Amish, but I believe that is because that is what is the most available. The mystery/adventure genre does well, and it is not only men readers. Our spec [speculative] fiction/fantasy does really well for what is available, and in that mix are the contemporary books that do well also. It has been a matter of finding out what they like to read and then making sure we have it in stock for them.
So all that to say, I work at making sure I know what my readers want. If they only wanted one genre, then I would carry that, but we have a wide variety of readers that frequent our store.
Chris Jager, Fiction buyer, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich.
We have about 60 linear feet of shelving devoted to adult fiction. I have broken this down into a few categories: contemporary, historical, mystery, general fiction and classical literature. I carry around 500 titles. Since my store is just 1,700 square feet, I try to carry titles that earn their space—by sales and/or meaningful content.
Rick Lewis, Owner, Logos Bookstore, Dallas
Our fiction section doesn’t do near as well with the evolution of e-books. The nonfiction does way, way better. We have a section of fiction that’s probably 4 foot floor to ceiling, but it’s definitely one of the smaller sections.
I have asked a lot of customers about the types of books that they have on their shelf. They say the main reason they want to keep the other genres in paper form is that they either like to mark in them and take notes, or if they are specially touched by a certain book, they like to pass it on to a friend. This usually doesn’t happen with fiction. They read it and it is over. That’s why an e-reader makes more sense to them.
Kelly McCoy, Owner, Enid Christian Bookstore, Enid, Okla.
Because most of our readers in our church are nonfiction readers, I do have one bookcase dedicated to fiction because it’s my love personally and I pick and choose based on my other fiction readers and I choose what I know they’re looking for. I have to be selective because my size is so small, but I do special orders for somebody who comes up with something I didn’t think of, and that’s fine too. The whole idea is to take care of my customer.
Cristel Phelps, Manager, The Hope Store, Mount Hope Church, Lansing, Mich.
We carry all types of Christian fiction in the front third of the store. It is, by far, the best selling category of books and has held its own against the e-book craze. [We] also carry the discounted fiction books from Wholesale Christian Books in the very front of the store.
Steve Pickering, Owner, Parable/Lemstone of Cedar Rapids, Marion, Iowa
I do not carry any fiction, but I’m not a traditional Christian bookstore.
Bambi Rucker, Owner, Blessings Christian Gift Store, Seguin, Texas
We have carried fiction for a long time. The makeup and sections within fiction have changed, however. Currently we have Suspense/Mystery, Historical, General and Romance. Interestingly enough, Romance as a department is the slowest section. General covers all the Amish fiction titles and authors such as Randy Alcorn and Karen Kingsbury.
We have a loyal book club group that meets in our store once and month, and that seems to really help sales. We give them a 10% discount on any fiction that isn’t already on sale the day they meet—and they each leave with a stack. We have the equivalent of 24 linear feet of fiction, with an additional 8 feet that has been purchased and sold as “bargain fiction.”
Lorraine Valk, Owner, Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph, St. Joseph, Mich.
We carry a wide variety of fiction—biblically based fiction, contemporary-themed, Amish, mystery/thriller and fantasy in both youth and adult age groups. Quite a few authors write in series so we need to keep up on this category to make sure we have all of the books in a series. We have seen a decline in sales over the last several years in this category of books, presumably due to the use of Nooks, Kindles and iPads. We keep up on vendor returns to keep this category fresh and current without being too overstocked.
Charlene Wiggs, Owner, The Master’s Mercantile, Pottstown, Pa.