Whether you're a fan of neat and clean new bookstores or a denizen of used bookshops overflowing with merchandise, all well-designed bookstores share the same elements. Great shelving and lighting are essential, but good design goes beyond that to create an atmosphere that encourages customers to browse and buy. Lay the groundwork for a successful business by choosing the right location, stocking your store with the right books for your customers and hiring service-oriented employees.
Select a site with large display windows and, if possible, ample sidewalk space, so carts of discounted books can be rolled outside to entice customers to come into the store. Install an awning to protect the books during inclement weather.
Provide enough storage to keep inventory on hand. Larger orders usually get greater discounts, so dedicate space for multiple copies of titles.
Design bookcases with customers in mind. Bottom shelves should slant so customers don't have to bend down to see the titles. Upper shelves should be reachable for most customers, or else provide a means for them to access the upper reaches, such as a stepladder. Have at least one shelf for each unit that's taller than the others so that oversized books can be shelved in the appropriate sections. Have easy-to-read shelf signs made.
Use a variety of tables, shelves and other units to create distinct display areas. Order dumps from publishers for mass market and trade paperbacks. Stack remainders on tables. Build a display for oversized books by attaching narrow strips of wood to a wall that will hold the books securely while they're displayed face out.
Carpet the store with sound-deadening heavy duty carpet that's easy to maintain.
Design a cash wrap with plenty of shelving for storing special orders and books that are being held for customers. Leave room for bags, employees' personal belongings, trash cans and telephones. Place the cash wrap near the door to discourage shoplifting.
Place a minimum of two computer workstations in the shop. One should be at the cash register for easy lookup of on-hand merchandise and to assist customers who are seeking hard to find books. Another should be in the receiving room so that inventory can be entered as it's received.
Order a large sign for outside that leaves no doubt this is a bookstore.
Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.