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I also began to think about ways that booksellers can cut costs and save money if the antiquarian book business goes into a slump along with the rest of the economy. Here are a few ideas:

  1. When exhibiting at book fairs, split a booth space with another bookseller. Your fees for the space and display cases will usually be halved.

  2. Save shipping costs by purchasing materials such as boxes and bubble wrap in bulk. The vendor from whom I buy boxes has sales twice a year, and I try to purchase enough boxes to get a bulk rate and to purchase only during the sale times.

  3. Consider recycling packaging materials, like those Styrofoam "peanuts" you sometimes get when you order a book. Some dealers also recycle boxes, but I haven't found a consensus among other dealers as to whether or not customers appreciate this or find it unprofessional. If you do recycle a box, remember that while recycling is admirable, so is professionalism. Don't ship a book in a food box (yes, someone has shipped a book this way to me. Food crumbs and books just don't mix well), and if you re-use a box, make sure it is still sturdy enough to take a beating from the journey of shipping and clean enough to clearly mark the customer's address.

  4. Be on the lookout for book bargains. As other dealers and people who just want to trade in their old books for cash feel pinched by the economy, prices may drop a bit. Be sure you have the cash on hand to buy when you find a bargain. One reason I didn't rent the office space I loved was so that my working capital was not tied up in a monthly rent bill. Now I will be free to purchase a good find should one come my way.

  5. If you have an open shop, be sure you're turning off the lights, stereo, computers at night. This is a way to "go green" and conserve energy as well.

  6. Consider using email newsletters and coupons for marketing purposes rather than print advertising. Also consider making print catalogues downloadable PDF so you don't have to spend so much on postage.

  7. Remind your customers that books as objects have value. A fine book in a subject in which a person has an interest may actually cost less than another luxury item, like a piece of jewelry or a work of art. A fine book may even cost less and have a better aesthetic than expensive electronic gadgets like Amazon's e-reader, the Kindle. Make sure your customers know that books are a worthwhile alternative to such purchases.

  8. Consider a loyalty program for repeat customers - perhaps a coupon for 10% off the next purchase or a gift card or even a hand-written thank-you note.

  9. Make sure you become known for maintaining excellent customer service and enthusiasm for your business, even in the light of economic bad news. Investing in building a good reputation is not expensive, and word-of-mouth can sometimes bring the best customers.

  10. Develop and maintain relationships with other booksellers. Very often the best ideas I receive come from the other people in the trade who have more experience than I do. Don't be afraid to ask a colleague to share ideas.

  11. Maintain confidence in your business. Right now I'm glad that my most recent financial investment was used to start my own antiquarian book business rather put into the stock market. There's no guarantee that I'll be a successful bookseller, but at this point, I feel like I have more control over my own destiny.
Hope these ideas help. I'd love to hear more ideas if you have them.

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