At Half Price Books, Empowered Associates Create Curated, Store-Specific Assortments

While most physical booksellers are contracting and consolidating, Half Price Books has been slowly and steadily growing. Multiple factors, all of which are aimed at creating intense customer loyalty, contribute to the retailer’s success in a difficult industry:

  • A focus on choosing highly promising locations for new stores;
  • Comfortable store layouts built to encourage browsing and discovery; and
  • An enthusiastic staff of associates who are empowered to shape each store’s inventory.

“People always ask me, ‘How are you opening stores when other people are closing stores?’” said Kathy Doyle Thomas, Chief Strategy Officer at Half Price Books in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Part of the reason we are growing is because we’re privately held — we don’t have to open stores if we don’t want to, and if we can’t afford it. If we don’t have enough money in the bank and we know that store won’t make money for three or four years because it needs to build its brand and customer base, then we don’t do it, and we don’t have any debt. We grow and expand when we want to and how we want to.”

This process includes taking a careful look at the overall retail market. Half Price Books opened fewer stores than it had planned in 2018 due to high real estate prices and the fact that its existing markets were already well-saturated with stores. The retailer currently operates 120 stores, and is looking at new cities and states, including Boise, Idaho and the Detroit area.

Half Price Books is unafraid to take its time when expanding to new markets. The retailer needs the right combination of demographic makeup, population growth and size for…