Resources, guides, and tips to help bookstores struggling due to coronavirus / COVID-19

In this 4-minute read:

  • What’s the impact of COVID-19 to bookstores?
  • Tips and ideas to keep your business “open”
  • Resources and guides

Odds are the aisles of your local bookstore are starting to look pretty empty with little to no customers wandering through, and for good reason. Social distancing and staying home is important to help minimize the spread of COVID-19, but that’s starting to have a real impact on small local businesses like independent bookstores. 

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We’ve gathered together resources and guides that can help your bookstore during this global crisis and we hope our tips can help provide you some hope for the future of your business. 

How are local bookstores being impacted by COVID-19?

Bookstores across the world are seeing negative impacts of the coronavirus on their communities and business. 

Many stores have been ordered to close their doors to the public and have been forced to lay off their employees. Some aren’t expecting to open again for several months. 

Amid directives from local officials to close non-essential businesses, we anticipate bookstore closures will only continue as the virus spreads further. 

One silver lining for bookstores in all of this is that many people who need to self-isolate or stay home suddenly have the time to read their list of books that they’ve been putting off. Now is the time to reach those people through online means as they are stuck in their homes. 

Tips and ideas to help bookstores struggling due to coronavirus

Even if you are adhering to guidelines to close your physical store during this time, you can still bring in new business to your bookstore. 

Offer curbside pickup or limited access when permitted

Curbside pickup isn’t just for grocery stores and restaurants anymore. Any retailer can benefit from offering curbside pickup during the coronavirus. Offer ways for your customers to put in their orders online (see below).

Accept payment online or on a mobile device like a tablet or phone when your customer comes to pick up their order, and bring books out to your customers when they arrive at your store. 

In areas where non-essential retail shops are permitted to stay open with limited access to the public, consider adopting a “time slot” system where customers can sign up for semi-private access of your store in groups of 10 or less. Here’s how one bookstore found a way to adhere to their local ordinance but still keep customers happy.

man reading alone in bookstore

Now may be the right time to start selling online

Start selling your books online. There are many ways that you can get started with this: Amazon, e-commerce website, Etsy, and more. 

If you have a website, you can easily integrate an e-commerce platform like Shopify or Ecwid into your website to start selling online right away. 

You can also look into other online book-selling platforms like Kobo and Libro.fm (more on these later). 

Learn more: How to get your business started selling online during COVID-19 / coronavirus

Find creative ways to market your online resources

Does your books store offer subscription services or partner with any subscription services? Market those outlets on social media to drive more traffic to your online resources. 

As you start selling online, create Google ads and Facebook ads to reach a targeted audience that is looking to buy books online. 

Offer discounts to entice customers to purchase larger orders from your store. 

Go deeper: 8 ways to promote your business on Facebook

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Keep your customers informed

Right now it is more critical than ever to keep your customers informed about business operations in your bookstore. Are you closing your doors to the public? Are you offering curbside pickup or limited customer access? Are you selling online? Let your customers know!

Also, give your customers peace of mind by reassuring them that you and your staff are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of your staff and customers. 

Resources and guides to help bookstores during COVID-19

Several organizations are working to help mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on small local businesses. Some are dedicated to helping all industries while others are dedicated specifically to helping local bookstores. 

General business resources for COVID-19

The CDC, SBA, and other organizations are constantly updating their guides for small businesses and consumers as more news comes out about the coronavirus. Check out these guides for more information: 

Bookstore-specific resources for COVID-19

National bookselling organizations and corporations are working to help local bookstores navigate through the impacts of COVID-19 and continue to make money during this time. 

American Booksellers Association

This organization is continuing to monitor the coronavirus outbreak and provide resources for booksellers in the U.S. On their site you can find resources for financial assistance, retailers, how to prevent the spread, hosting events, and more. 

Visit bookweb.org to learn more. 

Bookshop

Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to support independent local bookstores. They donate 10% of all non-bookstore affiliate sales to participating independent bookstores. You can also become an affiliate to earn a commission on books that you share. 

Learn how to opt-in by emailing sarah.high@bookshop.org or visiting bookshop.org.

Libro.fm

Libro.fm allows consumers to purchase monthly subscriptions with 100% of the proceeds going to their local bookstore during this time. Customers get to choose which bookstore their proceeds go towards. 

Spread the word with this company’s hashtag, #ShopBookstoresNow, and encourage your customers to start memberships and choose your store. 

Learn more at libro.fm.

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