I Hate Trade Shows

How can a dedicated bookseller claim to hate tradeshows? They offer great ideas to improve a bookstore, offer sessions on running stores more effectively, and compare programs with other stores. Publishers and vendors show off the upcoming books and sidelines to make a store profitable and beneficial to a community.

So why do I hate trade shows, particularly after writing about how much I love them? Because I don’t have a physical bookstore. True, I had an arrangement with a coffee shop in Clarksburg, and it did very well. But it was “boutique” size, and as I was negotiating a larger partnership with the coffee shop owner, he went out of business.  I couldn’t take over the lease and packed up as well.

I’m a member of bookseller associations that put on trade shows a couple of times a year, and have attended some of them over the four years I’ve been in business. The trials and tribulations of finding affordable space in a sustainable community have been difficult in these economic times. I hated to go to the shows because I felt like I was explaining why I couldn’t be in business, rather than getting into discussions about making the business better. I wanted to talk about what was working, submitting bestseller nominations, offering staff or customer recommendations, and all the fun stuff that makes bookselling so exciting and rewarding.

But now, the hated part about going to a trade show is almost over. I begin moving into a store that I can call my own, or at least lease. A friend of mine, who started her own business at the same time, had to close. She owns the building and is trying to sell it, but in the meantime, I will maintain the property to keep the value up. We’ve worked out a great lease that helps both of us, and gives me roughly 1,300 square feet to grow. I don’t have much for a budget, but enough to get open.

There’s a dispute with the state highway over rights to put up a street sign, but we’re working on it. Otherwise, the store is located in the Clarksburg Historic District, and the building is the original 1730’s trading post built at the crossing of two Indian trails. The building expanded over the years and added a Post Office, where my granduncle was postmaster. There’s a lot of great history, and the style of the store reminds one of the general stores of long ago. The style won’t change and there will be a bit of a challenge to incorporate a bookstore, but it should be an unusual experience. The center of the store will have movable displays to accommodate book groups, signings, and other activities. There’s a lot to do, but I expect to open at the end of April or beginning of May.

If I’m still sane, I’ll be looking forward to the next trade show!

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