August 2016
Renewed Retail By Abby Kleckler

Have bookstores seen their heyday? With the bankruptcy and closure of hundreds of stores by Borders five years ago, that seemed to be the case. Not to mention the popularity of Kindles, Nooks and so many other e-readers has changed the way many people read.

In Portland, Oregon, however, you’d be hard pressed to find people who believe bookstores are a dying breed. Why is that? Powell’s Books.EditorsLetter_PowellsBooks

Powell’s Books has five stores in the Portland area, employs more than 530 people and has an inventory of more than two million volumes.

The retailer shows up on multiple “What to Do When You Visit Portland” lists, and when I walked in to check it out on a Sunday evening before the Garden Centers of America Tour last month, it was packed.

I went to the store’s headquarters, which is its largest store, spanning an entire city block.

Around every corner, I kept thinking to myself that Powell’s Books knows how to do retail right.

The space is separated into nine color-coded rooms. A map, which can be picked up at the front of the store, clearly spells out the layout, but I found the signage to be more Once in the rows than sufficient.

Once in the rows and rows of books, you will find simple signs notifying shoppers of staff picks, great gift ideas (think graduation, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, housewarming) or recommendations based on what someone has already read (as seen in the photo). Although there was way more shoppers than there was staff, every time I seemed to hesitate in between aisles for a while, someone would ask if I needed assistance.

The part that surprised me most though was that despite being a tourist attraction as well as a bookstore, everyone was buying. People had stacks of books, and the cash registers had a steady flow of people every time I looked.

Walking into a store like Powell’s Books gave energy and renewal to bookstores as a whole. That’s a powerful retailer.

An Easy Idea

While on the Garden Centers of America Tour in the Portland area, we spent a lot of time on buses traveling from one impressive garden center to another. You can see highlights on the Lawn & Garden Retailer website and Facebook page as well as in upcoming issues of the magazine.

For now, though, I want to give you one piece of advice that came from a garden center merchandiser in South Carolina that got the whole bus buzzing.

She said that if someone walks in with standout shoes, beautiful jewelry, a nice outfit or whatever it might be, the easiest way to build rapport is to start the conversation with a compliment.

You’ve broken the ice, and they feel comfortable enough to start talking to you about all of their gardening needs. What a simple piece of advice! I even heard one garden center owner say that idea alone paid for the whole trip.

Abby Kleckler

Abby is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected]


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