by Kevin Coupe
Great piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend about Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, an independent bookstore that is profitable and thriving, despite competition from the likes of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
"To reflect shifting reading habits and business in the Internet age," the story says, "Green Apple has a Facebook page, a Tumblr blog, a book-of-the-month club and offers an option to buy electronic books. Mr. Mulvihill says he closely watches costs, including credit-card processing fees, and gets ideas from other bookstores he visits."
Some excerpts from the interview with Mulvihill:
• "There have been a never-ending series of things that should have run us out of business. First we had a Crown Books down the street, and then the rise of the mega bookstores. We should have been gone a long time ago, [but] this year was better than last. We're not just treading water, we're doing better."
• Amazon is "definitely our biggest competitor. The only good news is California is finally making them [Amazon] collect sales tax.
"One main advantage we have now is instant gratification. If someone is on their way to a kid's birthday party and forgot to buy a gift, they can come into our store. But when Amazon can deliver in a couple of hours, they eliminate that advantage."
• "Some of it is watching the balance of products that we sell. We have catchphrases, including, 'Sell more of what's selling.' We used to have three [book]cases of kids' books and now we have 25. After 9/11, when travel plummeted, we shrunk the selection devoted to travel books, and now travel is booming again."
It is always nice to see when independent retailers are managing to compete - and succeed - despite the power of the forces allayed against them.
You can read the entire piece here.