Catering to kids Print
Written by Scott Etheridge   
Thursday, 25 February 2016 09:51 AM America/New_York

Scott-EtheridgeAdopt these practical ways to increase children’s book sales

Publishing continues to evolve before our eyes with a subsequent impact on retailing. With the rising popularity of e-books and a greater number of consumers choosing larger, one-stop chains rather than the cozy familiarity of smaller bookstores, store owners and managers have had to rethink how they do business in the face of this shift in consumption.

Most store staffing changes have resulted not only in a smaller number of workers in total, but also in less specialized team members who must multitask in several areas, diluting their ability to become real experts in any one topic or section of a retail store. Managers and owners now serve as backroom personnel, stock clerks and cashiers—all while trying to serve customers and help with their questions. It’s no wonder they are tired and find it hard to fit in time for cost-saving measures.

Despite this somewhat unstable outlook, there are some highlights in children’s publishing that need to be explored to help you grow your business. Consider these three significant factors:

The children’s sector is growing. In the April 16, 2015, issue of Publishers Weekly, Jonathan Nowell, president of Nielsen Book, states: “Total print sales in the U.S. rose 2 percent, but children’s was the key driver, with 13 percent growth.” Nowell goes on to say that board books have seen compound growth over the last three years of 22 percent.

Bearing these stats in mind, here are three questions to help you determine if you’re giving your children’s section the attention it deserves:

  1. What is the dollars-per-square-foot number for your current children’s section?
  2. Where do those dollars rank in proportion to dollars allocated to other sections in your store?
  3. What is your dollar allocation to children’s board books? (If you want to learn more about calculating dollars per square foot, please refer to my article in the April-May 2015 issue of Christian Retailing, available at

Adults are buying young adult (YA) fiction in droves. In a Publishing Perspectives article, Publisher Hannah Johnson states: “Around 80 percent of readers for young adult books are not teens but adults.” Nowell adds that, in 2014, 11 of the top 20 selling titles overall were YA fiction.

Many stores struggling with the YA category may be missing revenue dollars because of poorly positioned product. As an owner or manager, take a look at the following suggestions and adjust according to your store and customer demographic:

  1. Establish a home specifically for YA fiction. This will help your customers know where to go each time they visit your store. Remember, your ultimate goal is to establish yourself as a destination point for consumers in your immediate area.
  2. Look again at your revenue dollars allocated to YA fiction. Is your product mix correct, and are you stocking the correct inventory levels? To grow a new product line and build repeat readership, it takes time, dedication, persistence and the education of the buying public.

Reaching kids with great books means engaging their parents and other relatives. Since children do not usually have disposable cash, it is their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles buying for them.

Additionally, even if a parent often reads digitally, they are buying print books for their children.

AnnJanette Toth, senior marketing director, children’s books/Tommy Nelson Kids, has observed that parents highly value print books.

“Parents no longer want their kids to constantly be in front of screens at such young ages,” Toth said. “According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not. What better to learn about at a young age than Jesus!”

Here are a few ways you can help families grow and learn together while increasing your retail sales:

1. Hold in-store activities around a specific title or genre of books that engages parents and children at the same time.

2. Create add-on sales with product at the cash wrap—perhaps there’s a DVD or study guide that goes along with a book the customer is purchasing.

3. Include in your store ads some children’s options for an adult-counterpart product.

The three points listed above are only a few of the quick and easy action items you can begin to implement today. For a more in-depth discussion, contact your sales consultant.

Ultimately, the main area of focus for you as an owner or manager is building your store into a destination point for customers. There is no better way to do that right now than by maximizing your foot traffic and revenue potential in lockstep with the surge in children’s print sales.

Scott Etheridge serves as manager of sales development at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, and is responsible for promotions and sales analysis. Connect with him on Twitter (@scottetheridge).