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Store Layout
Part II: Fixtures

Clicks-and-Bricks Used Bookstore Series

by Jill Hendrix

#118, 14 April 2008

Fixturing your store will be one of your top expenses. Buying new fixtures from a company like Franklin Fixtures is the most expensive way to go (up to $200 per square foot) and usually outside the budget for most used bookstores. Cheaper alternatives include buying used fixtures or building your own.

First, familiarize yourself with the appropriate ADA guidelines for retail establishments.

Used fixtures can be purchased from stores going out of business or relocating. Store closings may be announced on bookstore lists, craigslist, your local newspaper - or might be handled by local auction houses. Don't limit your search to bookstores; fixtures from other types of stores may be suitable for gift items or displays.

The chain bookstores often throw out old fixtures when they get in new ones. Try to contact an assistant manager at a chain a town or two over from where you are planning to open and see if they'll give you first dibs on any fixtures they no longer need. (Your in-town chain store may not be friendly, but the store the next town over competes against them for district glory and so may be more willing to help you out.)

If you are planning to obtain used fixtures, make sure to give yourself a lot of lead time and have your own transportation, able bodies, and adequate storage space. Also, keep in mind that you may still have to purchase accessories, such as sign holders for them.

Alternatively, the most popular plan with used bookstore owners is to have your fixtures custom-built by a local carpenter. This way, you can ensure that you are making the best use of every inch of sales space. Also, the carpenter will be responsible for transporting and installing the fixtures in your space.

When planning your fixtures, try to build in as much flexibility as possible by using adjustable shelving instead of fixed shelves. Many used bookstores that had their shelving built specifically for mass-market paperbacks are now having problems handling the influx of trade paperbacks and taller-size mass-markets.

If you have a small store, consider having casters (industrial-strength wheels) added to your fixtures so that you can easily reconfigure your space to host events or get behind a fixture to change out an exterior window display.

When thinking about fixtures, keep in mind that you'll not only need bookcases but also endcaps and display fixtures. If you are planning to carry valuable antiquarian books or small, costly gift items, you may also need a locking glass case or two.

For focal points, such as your main display table, you may want to splurge on a nice-looking piece from an antique store. For smaller end tables, a fresh coat of paint over a thrift store find may be all that's necessary.

If you find that your store plan includes some odd-sized spaces that don't lend themselves well to standard fixture sizes, consider attaching slatwall to the area and turn the wall itself into a fixture.

If you find yourself running out of space, consider moving into the vertical by hanging gift items from your ceiling: Perhaps a long chain of stuffed animals or a kitchen pot rack displaying wind chimes.

If you decide to go with custom-built shelving, stay tuned for Parts III & IV of this article, which will share the plans for the A-frame units and wall shelves that my father built for my store. Feel free to build from them yourself or pass them along to your local carpenter.

If you have any questions about fixturing your store, please email me at or post your query to the BookThink Open Shop Bookstores forum, and I'll do my best to help.

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