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I manage a church bookstore and the visitors to the store only vary by a small degree. The store is only open on the weekends for the convenience of members and attendees. We carry a good selection of Bibles and books as well as a nice selection of inspirational gifts.
Because our customer base doesn’t change like that of a mall or big box store we must be selective with our purchases and creative with our merchandising. We also are constantly changing things up to keep the store looking fresh and inviting. Having a small store and limited storage is a challenge. However, challenges create opportunities for creativity. Our displays range from random to specific. We sometimes have seasonal displays, topic related displays or even a display that is inspired by the colors of the season.
Typically when merchandising the church bookstore we try to arrange the store in a manner that is inviting and comfortable for the guys. Speaking from experience women are comfortable shopping just about anywhere; from the best boutique to Bass Pro Shop. Typically most men will avoid shopping at all costs. I am very happy to say our little bookstore has a high percentage of guys hanging around between services checking out the books on the shelves, buying T-shirts and even helping out by volunteering as cashiers and floor attendants. I think they like our little store.
However, this weekend our church is hosting our annual women’s event. Our guest speaker is Lysa Terkeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her most recent book, Made to Crave, has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
So this week we decided to glam up the store for the event. I have a volunteer who comes once a week and helps with merchandising. Joan has an eye for mixing gifts and books that relate to one another. Her attention to detail has given the store a unique feel that you just don’t find in most retail settings. This week Joan has pulled all the color to the front of the store. She has mixed beautiful canvas prints with colorful tote bags. The cash wrap area sparkles with beautiful fused glass crosses from an Austin, Texas Artist. The glass jewelry case is a mix of jewelry, picture frames, coffee mugs and bible covers, the color is scheme is black and white with a pop of red. It looks fabulous! I think the ladies are going to enjoy browsing around the store this Saturday during the conference breaks. Not to mention we have dropped a little coupon in their swag bag! Now that’s merchandising and marketing at its best.
Our store is about 1000 square feet. To make the most of our limited space we try to cross merchandise whenever possible. The majority of the store consists of bookshelves, each shelf is dedicated to a specific topic or category. There isn’t much floor space for display racks or merchandisers. The store gets very crowded on the weekend between services. In order for our guests to have a good shopping experience we must incorporate gifts and books within the same space. We cannot limit the books to one area and the gifts to another. About a year ago, Joan and I decided that we would utilize the top shelf of every bookshelf for category related gifts. The rest of the bookshelf is filled with category specific books, audio cd’s or educational resources.
This creative merchandising technique also acts as our silent salesperson. Our bookstore is staffed entirely by volunteers during the weekend services. We also use creative merchandising to help shoppers visualize gift combinations.
I admit that I have no professional training in this area. This store is my hearts desire…I woke up one morning 6 years ago and there it was…a deep yearning in my heart to own a bookstore/coffee shop. I wanted to create a place where people could find the right book or inspirational gift to help them on their spiritual journey. As God would have it, His plan for my life and my hearts desire were the same. I am not the owner but I do have the greatest boss, ever! I am truly blessed!
“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the LORD not for men” Colossians 3:23