ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Bargain books have proved to be a real volume mover and a bonanza of incremental sales at Carr's Quality Centers here.
With bargain books promoted quarterly at 30% to 50% off regular retails, the chain is moving "tons of books when we stack them on tables at a high traffic area of stores at prices lower than elsewhere," said Gary Schloss, vice president of general merchandise.
Carr's merchandises bargain books over a two-week period with prices ranging from 99 cents to $29. Average cash register rings total between $10 and $15.
The retailer brings in literally thousands of mostly hardbacks and some paperbacks, and puts them up on two 8-foot-long tables, placed directly behind the checkstands in the lobbies.
"Books normally retailed at $49 that we offer at $29 also do well, and customers don't seem deterred by the retails," Schloss added.
Leaders in best-selling classifications are children's titles, followed by how-to books, travel and cook books.
Schloss said sales are the strongest in children's and cooking books from fall through Christmas, while how-to books and ones on outdoor living move well in summer.
"Books on other countries like Australia, or about Alaska and glaciers, and that have lots of pictorials, and usually retail for $29 that we sell on our book tables at $19.99, are also good [movers]," he said.
The success of merchandising bargain books has prompted the retailer to consider offering the category year-round. However, the question of availability of highly trafficked selling space makes it unlikely bargain books will become permanent.
As Schloss explained, "The problem in creating a permanent section is location. They [bargain books] are an impulse item that cannot be buried somewhere in the regular book section, and would probably not do well there. Bargain books do better as their own entity in the store."
While the front lobby, "with its high exposure would be the ultimate place to set up bargain books as a regular section, we can't do that because there's so much going on there with things like grocery case lot sales, bakery sales, nutrition programs or whatever." For future bargain book promotions, Schloss will enhance presentation to create a stronger impact with shoppers already in the stores. "We'd like to make the books stand out more, and to allow the customers to gaze over a wide assortment of titles without having to remove or return them to a shelf. We're always looking for new sources, new ideas and ways to improve the program," he said.