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Airport Stores, Supermarkets, and Drugstores:
Tips on Selling to Three Big Nontraditional Markets

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On the surface, selling books to airport bookstores may not seem to have much in common with selling books to supermarkets or to drugstores, but there are similarities. In fact, marketing to these buyers even has something in common with marketing to bookstores. You sell through a distribution partner; the distributors’ discounts may reach 70 percent; returns are common; and payment terms may exceed 90 days. On the plus side, the rewards of immediate national distribution through these channels can be significant.


Fly High with Sales to Airport Bookstores

All major airports have at least one bookstore surrounded by weary travelers looking for something to do to help pass time. What better way to while away the hours than by reading a good book? “A major store in a large airport will sell between $1 and $2 million worth of books each year,” says Kathleen Willoughby of Bookazine.

Smaller airport bookstores have space constraints that limit stock to the top fiction and nonfiction titles and the popular classics. But a title does not have to be a bestseller to find its way into the larger airport stores. These shops will carry books by local and regional authors as well as books pertaining to their specific locales and destination points. For example, Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures by Dan Shaughnessy and Stan Grossfeld is for sale in bookstores at Boston’s Logan Airport.

Titles for children tend to do well in airport bookstores, as do titles for business travelers. Biographies of business leaders and books about management, investment, economics, personal finance, and health work well in the airport setting too.

Since summertime is the peak travel period, it’s no surprise that it’s the peak selling period in airport bookstores, which also get a bump in sales during the fourth-quarter holiday season. Softcover books seem to sell more units than casebound, and the typical size is 6″ by 9″. To be considered, your book must have an ISBN and an EAN bar code, and its price must be printed on the back cover. Since most books are displayed cover out, the front cover design is critical to the title’s success. And since airport stores rarely discount books, your list price must fit this practice. Sales are made on a returnable basis, usually at standard wholesale terms.

The major airport bookstore chains are listed below, and you can reach buyers for these stores directly. When you submit your material to them, send a complete package with everything they need to make a favorable decision. “The more the better,” says Randy Yarbrough of Anderson News.

Call to get each buyer’s specific submission guidelines before creating your package. In general, it should contain a copy of your book, your terms, a summary marketing plan, reviews, sales history, and newspaper articles. Include contact information for your distributor or wholesaler, since airport stores place orders through them, using them as both suppliers and warehousers.

Buyers will review your material to determine if there is a market for your title in their stores. If they think there could be, they will ask you to complete a vendor questionnaire.

Paradies Shops, 5950 Fulton Industrial Blvd. SW, PO Box 43485, Atlanta, GA 30336; 404/344-7905; fax 404/349-7539; www.theparadiesshops.com. Services 73 airports with 21 bookstores and 210 newsstands that sell both periodicals and books. Paradies buys through Newsgroup and Anderson News and is most interested in business titles, bestsellers, and titles about current events. Contact: Vicky Pittard, Senior Book Merchandiser.

W.H. Smith, 3200 Windy Hill Rd., West Tower Suite 1500, Atlanta, GA 30339; 770/952-0705; fax 770/951-1352. Operates or owns 255 airport shops and 421 hotel stores. Currently in transition through purchase by Hudson News, W.H. Smith uses Bookazine as its primary book supplier for its 40 main airport shops, which carry 4,000 to 6,000 titles. Contact: Sara Hinckley, National Book Buyer.

Although you can contact these buyers directly, your present distribution partner may already be calling on them, so first find out if you are currently represented here. In approaches to Paradies and W.H. Smith, you should describe the number of books you ship per carton and how many units were published. Also you should include information about who is providing sales, marketing, and distribution services on your behalf.

Wholesalers to airport stores will pay 50 percent of the amount due you in 90 days and hold the other 50 percent as a reserve against returns for 180 days. If your book takes off, you can usually negotiate better terms.

Here’s contact information for Bookazine and Anderson News, two of the larger wholesalers to airport stores:

Bookazine Co., Inc., New Vendor Development Coordinator, 75 Hook Rd., Bayonne, NJ 07002; see the complete submission guidelines at www.bookazine.com/customer_service/instructions.shtml

Anderson News Co., Purchasing Division, 6016 Brookvale Lane, Ste. 151, Knoxville, TN 37919; 865/584-9765; fax 865/584-9400; www.andersonnews.com

Sell to Supermarkets and Drugstores

There are tens of thousands of supermarkets and drugstores of all sizes around the country. Many of them sell books, booklets, and videos, and some of the larger supermarket chains, such as Kroger, include bookstores–not just book sections.

Today’s superstores and drugstores carry a wide variety of books, but mostly mass-market paperbacks. Rarely do they carry anything but the bestselling titles in hardcover. “This is one area in which fiction outsells nonfiction,” says John Styron of Anderson News, a sister company to Anderson Merchandisers and one of the wholesalers that serve supermarkets and drugstores. Other titles that sell well there are books by local and regional authors and books about local and regional topics.

Randy Yarbrough believes that sales to this segment are “very likely” for independent publishers. Anderson News sells their titles “all the time,” he reports. But Steve Linville of The News Group notes, “It can be frustrating for a small publisher to break into the market, given the returns, discounts, and dating required.”

Both Randy and Steve note that supermarkets discount the list price up to 25 percent, so your pricing must allow for that to occur profitably. (The list price on books sold in drugstores should be $15.95 or lower; a price below $10 is the norm in supermarkets, but the price can go to $20 or more for a hardcover.) They also agree that cookbooks, travel books, and regional titles do well in supermarkets, but health-related topics move better in drugstores, particularly in the form of booklets. “Children’s titles also seem to do well in supermarkets, and fiction remains the mainstay in these outlets,” Steve adds.

Authors may do book signings at supermarkets and drugstores that offer their books. “One author recently sold 500 copies during a recent signing at a Ralph’s supermarket in California,” Randy reports. When it comes to cross-merchandising, though, Steve advises caution: “Cross-merchandising is not as easy as it may seem, because several different buyers may be involved.”

The competition is stiff for the limited shelf-space supermarkets and drugstores allot to books, and what they care about most is profit per square foot. If you can demonstrate that your promotional activities will help bring in new customers and profits, you will get their attention.

You may submit your book and marketing package directly to the major supermarket chains, but they normally direct you to their wholesalers. Three major supermarket chains are:

Kroger Co., 1014 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202-1100; 513/762-4000; www.kroger.com; customers@kroger.com

Safeway Inc., 5918 Stoneridge Mall Rd., Pleasanton, CA 94588-3229; 925/520-8000; 877/723-3929; fax FX – USA 925/467-3321; www.safeway.com. Contact: Judy Russell, Book Buyer

Stop and Shop Companies Inc., 1385 Hancock St., Quincy, MA 02169-5510; Book Buyer: 617/770-8743; www.stopandshop.com

Distributors to supermarkets include:

Anderson News Co., 6016 Brookvale Lane, Ste. 151, Knoxville, TN

37919; 865/584-9765; fax 865/584-9400

Hudson News Co., 1 Meadowlands Plaza Ste. 902, East Rutherford, NJ 07073; 201/939-5050; 800/326-7711; fax 201/939-6652; www.hudsongroupusa.com. Contact: Willard Goldberger, Vice President, Merchandising

The News Group West, 3400 D Industry Dr. East, Fife, WA 98424; 253/922-8011; fax 253/896-5027; www.thenewsgroup.com

When you submit a title to these distributors, include a color sell sheet with all the pertinent information about it (price, author, case quantities, etc.) and a photo of any floor displays you could provide.

Interestingly, book buyers for supermarkets and drugstores do not always wait for publishers to contact them. If their salespeople notice a suitable title in a local news story, in Publishers Weekly, or at a trade show, they may seek it out–one more reason for getting as much exposure for your titles as you possibly can.

Brian Jud is the author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly book), The Marketing Planning CD, and a series of booklets, Proven Tips for Publishing Success. You can contact him at PO Box 715, Avon, CT 06001, 800/562-4357, brianjud@bookmarketing.com, or www.bookmarketing.com.

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