Bookmans Redefines Retail

Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, an Arizona institution with six locations, is one of the top 10 finalists in the National Retail Federation’s video contest, “What is Retail?” The company, founded by Bob Oldfather more than 30 years ago has a business model based on recycling, and is largely reliant on the communities it serves for a unique and extensive inventory.

Harrison Kressler, Bookmans’ media producer, created the two-minute contest video that captures the essence of Bookmans. The company is structured around the idea that “used is not a dirty word,” said Kressler, and its stores provide opportunities for customers to discover something new in a way that is less taxing on the environment. “Other bookstores are just as important, because they feed our inventory,” he said. “It’s great to be able to recycle what the community brings in and use that as our business model.”

Bookmans’ customers can buy, sell, and trade books, movies, music, video games, musical instruments, and more, and use trade credits as cash. Customers provide the stores with quality inventory, and in turn, the company gives back to the communities in four core areas: environmental advocacy, literacy, freedom of speech, and animal welfare.

“Our community is literally what makes our stores what we are,” said Kressler. “It’s the community that thrives the business.”

The NRF gave contestants a choice of themes, and Bookmans chose “Retail Creates Opportunities,” because “that couldn’t be more true for us,” said Kressler, who has benefited from such an opportunity himself. His dream job of community outreach and working in media was created by Oldfather two and a half years ago. Since being hired, Kressler has won 16 advertising awards from the American Advertising Federation. “I’ve been able to experience things I never would have expected at a bookstore,” he said.

With more than 250 employees in six stores — three locations in Tucson and one each in Phoenix, Mesa, and Flagstaff — in addition to a corporate office and a warehouse, Bookmans acknowledges that retail is a career destination for many and is accommodating of its employees’ wide-ranging skills.

The two-minute contest video represents each of Bookmans’ markets and more than 55 individual voices. It outlines some of the staff perks such as getting the day off for birthdays, a flexible work schedule, and the encouragement to showcase individuality. The staff uniform is “kind of a joke,” said Kressler, as it is jeans and a T-shirt.

“I was hired to promote us on a local level, and now I get a chance to promote us on a national level,” said Kressler, adding that it’s not very common for retail stores to get that opportunity. “It’s hard to fit all of what Bookmans is in two minutes,” he said. “We love what we do, we are passionate, and our customers are so much a part of who we are.”

This round of the contest ends Sunday, April 15, at 12:00 p.m. EST. To vote for Bookmans, log into the NRF website. Voters are able to cast 10 votes each day, until the end of the contest. The winning company will be awarded $25,000, but Kressler is more focused on spreading the word about the business and growing its customer base.

“I believe in this business wholeheartedly, and want the country to know what we do,” said Kressler.