Great Turnout for Grand Rapids Forum

Close to 60 booksellers attended the ABA Booksellers Forum, held in conjunction with the Great Lakes Booksellers Association on Wednesday, April 16, at Schuler Books & Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The day's program featured the education session "Booksellers at the Tipping Point: Leveraging Localism and Independence to Promote Your Store," as well as an opportunity to discuss concerns with, and hear the latest news about ABA services and initiatives from, CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, COO Oren Teicher, and Board member Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshops, based in Naperville, Illinois.

"We had a great turnout," said Jim Dana, executive director for GLBA. "This was the biggest forum we have had in our region." Although Michigan forums tend to do well in terms of attendance in general, Dana conjectured that the "Tipping Point" focus of the educational program probably played a factor, too. "The message of the seminar is something that I think we all intuitively recognize," he said, adding that he had received positive feedback from attendees about the day's events.

Cynthia Compton of 4 Kids Books in Zionsville, Indiana, was happy to see the "tremendous" turnout. "It was a huge treat to see all these booksellers and see people interact.... [ABA] really rolled the dice on the weather by having an April forum in Grand Rapids, but it was beautiful. I find the regional meetings very helpful. We attend BookExpo America, but it is much different to be sitting in the back room of another booksellers' store and spend time with ABA and your colleagues."

After a tour of Schuler's, which Compton described as a "wonderful store," the day got rolling with ABA's "Booksellers at the Tipping Point," where Teicher provided attendees with insight about the history of bookselling and how the retail marketplace has evolved to allow the concept of localism to take root and grow. He discussed the ways in which booksellers can leverage and exploit the concepts of localism, independence, and sustainability to more effectively market and promote their stores. Moreover, he stressed to attendees that the time to do so is now.

"I thought the seminar was timely," said Bridget Rothenberger of Nomad Bookhouse in Jackson, Michigan. "We just began a Buy Local campaign in Jackson two months ago, and I am one of the board members.... The fact that this is our window of opportunity is very exciting."

"I am in complete agreement that the shift back toward independents is growing and that booksellers need to get on the same page and build independent alliances," said Matt Norcross of McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Michigan. "If we don't make the most of it, it will be a loss."

Compton said the Tipping Point seminar was an "excellent and interesting program. It focused on the current climate, but it is written to trace the history of bookselling to show how we came to the point we are at today."

Following the educational program was the ABA Booksellers Forum, which was held over lunch. Key topics at the forum included shop local efforts, sales tax equity on online purchases, the renegotiation of leases, and the redesign of ABA's Book Sense marketing program.

"ABA is doing a wonderful job of building excitement [regarding the redesign]," said Compton, who added: "People also shared their experience with Shop Local movements. We heard that the definition of 'local' becomes an early factor in creating a Shop Local group."

Dana noted that there was also discussion regarding booksellers' garnering better access to publisher promotional materials, such as POP displays. "GLBA is part of a joint regional project, the Creative Advertising and Promotional Alerts, which is a kind of Advanced Access for promotional materials," he explained. "Publishers let us know what they have and each regional association distributes it to their own membership lists via e-mail."

"It was a great forum," said Rothenberger," and [the staff at] Schuler Books & Music were great hosts." --David Grogan