Issue 3   January 27, 2009
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An Open Letter From ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz
LETTERS

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[POST LETTER]
An Open Letter From ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz

Daily news reports make it very clear just how difficult the current economic environment is for all Americans, who are responding, in part, by reducing their spending on everything but the bare necessities. For ABA members and other retailers across the country, these are extremely challenging times. Many booksellers are responding by changing the ways they do business -- reducing operating expenses, adding higher-margin inventory, and fostering relationships with like-minded indie retailers. At the start of a new year and a new presidential administration, I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you of some key ABA services that we believe can help you meet the challenges ahead.

  • Creating educational conference content and other materials to address how bookstores can survive and rebound from an economic downturn. This month's Fourth Annual Winter Institute will provide sessions ranging from "Surviving Tough Times" to those focusing on such basic bookstore fundamentals as remainder buying and increasing margin. In addition, Wi4 will offer countless networking opportunities and roundtables, where booksellers can discuss how to make smart spending decisions regarding occupancy, compensation, marketing, and store design. ABA's Day of Education at BookExpo America in May will explore these issues and more, and in greater depth.

    ABA is also making curriculum materials for its education sessions at both
    Wi4 and BEA available to all members via BookWeb.org, and throughout the year Bookselling This Week features in the vein of 2008's Tough Times series will share the wisdom of booksellers' very experienced colleagues.
  • Providing increased opportunities for booksellers with reduced budgets to participate in both ABA and BEA programming. Earlier this month, ABA and BookExpo America announced a new initiative that will provide all regular ABA bookstore members with at least one free admission to the 2009 trade show, with additional badges available to stores in an ABA dues category of two or higher. An additional trade show badge will be available to all bookstores participating in the ABA Winter Institute.

    ABA has also negotiated very reasonable hotel rates for the Winter Institute and BookExpo America. This year's
    Hotel ABA returns to the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, the popular home to ABA members during BEA 2007.

    When possible, ABA is making group meetings and bookseller presentations virtual, through webinars and conference calls, to allow booksellers to experience educational events and discussions without leaving their stores.
  • Monitoring consumer trends. ABA again joined with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to conduct a post-holiday consumer study among booksellers and other independent retailers across the country to evaluate how independent businesses are faring in today's difficult economy and to assess whether people are more aware and supportive of independent businesses. (The survey showed that, in an extremely challenging economic climate, independent retailers are outperforming many chains and that independent retailers in cities with active "Buy Local" campaigns reported much stronger holiday sales than those in cities without such campaigns.)
  • Advocating for an economic stimulus plan that includes small business owners. In December, ABA President Gayle Shanks wrote to then President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team urging them to make the survival and long-range health of small business a prominent part of the new administration's economic stimulus package. On January 12, Lawrence Summers, director-designate of the National Economic Council, signaled the administration's strong support for small businesses.
  • Continuing efforts to ensure e-fairness and affordable healthcare insurance for small businesses. ABA has joined with other independent trade groups in sending letters to the governors in the states that collect sales tax to urge them to equitably enforce existing tax law and collect sales tax on online sales. With many states facing budget shortfalls, and the recent victory in a New York State Court, which tossed out Amazon.com's sales tax challenge, this is an optimum time for booksellers to act. ABA has provided a series of template letters that booksellers can send to their state's elected officials in support of e-fairness; the latest template letter appears in this week's issue.

    Over the past few years, a number of bills seeking to provide small businesses with affordable healthcare have been introduced into Congress without much success. With a new administration in Washington that has already voiced support for small businesses, we will redouble our efforts to effect change in this crucial area for our members.
  • Furthering the development and spread of the IndieBound movement. The IndieBound message, by way of its inspired materials and designs for bookstores and other indie retailers in-store, online, and in the community, is gaining momentum and creating awareness among consumers across the country. In 2009 we will be focused on creating more imaginative ways to keep the ball rolling.

ABA's Board of Directors diligently gives the needs and challenges facing members the utmost consideration when making any decisions. And I am as committed as ever to helping every member make it through these tough times. All of our energies are focused on providing you with the information and resources needed to move your business forward.

Please let me know if you have ideas about other resources or information that would help improve your business in this challenging economic environment.

All the best,

Avin Mark Domnitz
CEO, American Booksellers Association

 


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