The holiday season is in full swing, and many shoppers will be scouring bookstores in search of the perfect gift for loved ones.
Half Price Books, a Dallas-based retailer specializing in new and used books, was founded in 1972 by Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson. Inspired by their love of reading, the couple started the bookstore in a converted laundromat. Over the past 51 years, the family-owned company has grown into a significant player with 120 stores across 19 states. It is now considered the nation's largest independent bookseller
The company maintains a strong commitment to circular commerce and the stores, designed like mini-warehouses, list all in-store books online, allowing customers to search inventory and request specific titles.
In this conversation with RIS News, Kathy Doyle Thomas, president of Half Price Books, shared insights into the company’s efforts to keep the in-store experience special and outlined how the company uses technology to prepare for the busy holiday season and hiring crunch.
The company positions itself as a unique destination for holiday shopping, focusing on store experience and knowledgeable booksellers who are set up to provide personalized recommendations, whether in-store, by phone, or online, Doyle Thomas shares.
With so much inventory available, it becomes important for the retailer to manage holiday season demand and minimize stock-outs or overstocks. Half Price Books took into account possible supply chain issues and work stoppages early. “Our buyers secured holiday merchandise from suppliers early so we could be fully stocked for the holiday season. The Central Distribution Center warehouse located in Dallas created a shipping schedule to ensure product was arriving in waves as we received it,” Doyle Thomas shares.
Bolstering Bookselling Teams
Recognizing the importance of a robust frontline team, Half Price Books Store Managers proactively hire permanent staff early and often, supplementing their ranks with temporary workers during the festive season. Recent wage adjustments include a competitive $15 starting wage for temporary employees and a $16 starting wage for permanent ones. “we hope this will help us retain well-trained employees beyond the holiday season,” Doyle Thomas shares.
The company has continued to invest in its online platform, HPB.com, allowing customers to search local store inventories and offering a "Get It Fast" option for same-day pickups.
In terms of marketing, HPB employs a multi-faceted strategy that leverages email, SMS, advertising, PR, and social media to keep the brand at the forefront of customers' minds.
“While we do focus on key gift items such as New York Times Bestsellers, holiday books, children’s toys, and stocking stuffers, our best customers know that each trip to HPB is a treasure hunt, so we are selling an experience more than seasonal products,” Doyle Thomas shares.
The retailer recently tapped Salesforce to implement a Cloud-based commerce management platform, which has created greater visibility into shopper behaviors and preferences.
“We are also working with better analytics which allow us to see how customers spend time on the site and eventually create personalized recommendations, so they keep coming back,” says Doyle Thomas.
Half Price Books also believes in the importance of resale, emphasizing sustainability by keeping books out of landfills. The company invests in its website to cater to the growing trend of shopping online while also expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint.
“People love to shop and they love to buy things, but what we've noticed is people are not buying as much as they used to and they're going online to buy. They're not doing the store experience, but sometimes you just need to go in and you need to feel it and touch it and try it on and read the jackets. And I think that in-store experience will continue to be popular among all people,” Doyle Thomas shares.
Looking ahead, Half Price Books plans to continue investing in its website, printing and publishing unique titles, and exploring new opportunities while adapting to changes in the retail landscape.