Bookstore Make-Over, Chapter 2

The wrap-up of our “bookstore make-over” project with Left Bank Books is now drawing near. Over the past month, we presented a detailed plan to the store’s owners, Kris and Jarek (Jay), and set a timeline for the work that needed to be done.

As a result, September has been a busy month at Left Bank Books. In addition to the make-over and their typical robust line-up of events, a lot of planning went in to the Sept. 24th hosting of Tony La Russa, former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, who launched his memoir, One Last Strike, celebrating 50 years of his baseball career. They needed ten additional staff to accommodate the number of fans expected, and wound up selling 1,400 copies of his book!

Adding color helps define the space and helps attract customers deep into the bookstore space.

For the make-over, Jay was able to do much of the painting during the last couple of weeks and we’re already seeing results. The purpose of choosing new paint colors was to delineate different areas of the store, since it had grown to occupy three storefronts over time. The first two sections are separated by a wall with beautiful curves and architectural detail at the top. Our design team selected a paint color called “camelback” to help those details stand out a bit more, lending a softer feeling to the store than the stark white that had been on all the walls and ceiling. Then, to attract customers’ eyes and pull them to the back of the store, the team chose a “reflecting pool” color (aqua blue) for the back wall which will soon house two important departments: Children’s and Comforts of Home. Two other colors were introduced as well: a sassy green for the front entrance, and a “cajun red” for some display tables.

For stores like Left Bank that have been in business for years, it’s fairly common to find them feeling a bit too full. Spinner racks and publisher “dumps” find their way onto the sales floor, but never seem to leave. One section spills over to another and starts to feel disconnected. So in addition to suggesting new paint colors, some accent lighting, and calling more attention to the staircase leading to the store’s lower level, perhaps the most important part of the make-over was to re-imagine the planogram – moving sections around for better traffic flow and dedicating a larger space for the children’s department. A planogram is just a simple term for the map that shows what goes where, using prime spaces judiciously and grouping like products based on who shops there. It’s a fun exercise that begins with a review of sales and inventory turns by section.

Working at the mall back in the 1970s, I never realized that the skills I was learning – working with a planogram and seeing how displays were planned during the buying season – would be put to such good use decades later. As the seasons change and as a store grows through the years, it’s a good idea to start fresh with a blank canvas and decide how much to invest in which types of merchandise … and change the sales floor to reflect the inventory and merchandise mix.

The two areas at Left Bank Books that I get most excited about are the front entrance and the children’s area. Yesterday I stopped by our local upholstery store to look for some fabric to cover the seat of an adorable wooden rocking chair that Kris discovered. The striped fabric was perfect complement to all the colors we selected for the store.

With a little bit of paint, fabric, some new lighting, and a new planogram, Left Bank Books is well on the way to looking dramatically different. We’ll return to the store on October 10th to work with the staff on rearranging some sections, put some finishing touches on focal point displays, and listen for customers who say, “What a great bookstore!”