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October 30, 2008

An Economic Recovery Plan from An Independent Business --- and How Book Clubs Play a Part

Posted by carol
Today, Outer Banks bookseller and contributor Jamie Layton offers some food for thought: in this poor economy, consider keeping your dollars in the community by shopping local --- and how reading groups can make a difference. Independent bookstores have a lot to offer book clubs and vice-versa. Read on for some of Jamie's suggestions. If you'd like to find a bookstore near you, visit the IndieBound website.

I know you've been hearing plenty about the economy the last few weeks, and I won't beat a dead horse or get up on my soapbox, etc. I just want to remind everyone that despite all that's going on we the people still hold a tremendous amount of power in our hands. Especially during times like these, we have one tool we can choose to use that benefits not only our families and friends but the people we live with and work with and see every day. Something that makes an immediate difference and has instant impact in the place where we live...not on Wall Street or at corporate HQ but in the very town where we eat, sleep and breathe. Please try to remember every time you reach for your wallet that you have this awesome power and can wield it however and whenever you choose.

Of course, I'm talking about the choice to shop locally. What happens when you spend your dollars with a local and independent restaurant, coffee shop, hardware store, boutique, pizza place, gas station, grocery store, farmer's market or gee, even a bookstore? You invested in entrepreneurship. You helped the environment. You nurtured community. You conserved your tax dollars. You created more choice. You created local jobs. You embraced what makes these businesses unique. And you kept dollars in the local economy.

We can make this choice wherever we are --- at home, here on the Outer Banks...any locale we find ourselves in has locally owned businesses. With the holiday season approaching, I challenge you to ask yourself with each and every purchase --- could I buy this from a local independent business? If the answer is YES, then challenge yourself to do so. Now more than ever, you --- the consumer --- have great power. Use it wisely! Please! It might be the only bailout a lot of small businesses ever get.

Here are a few ways your book group can help your local economy: if there is an independent bookstore in your community PLEASE patronize it. Introduce yourself to the owner or manager, tell them about your book group and ask them if they can give your members a discount on the monthly selections. Our store gives 20 to 25% off on book club picks. Be sure you keep them updated with a list of current and upcoming selections so they can be sure to have them in stock.

Encourage your members to take advantage of these discounts and remind them of their personal contribution to local businesses when they visit them versus a big chain bookstore. Plus, small independently owned businesses often have more unique (often hand-picked) merchandise than the big boxes making them great sources of interesting and special holiday gifts. We all do gift cards or gift certificates, just like the big boys, and if you can't find what you’re looking for we're always glad to special order.

Another idea is to ask your independent bookstore, coffee shop or a local restaurant if they would be willing to host your next book club meeting. I am willing to bet they would be more than happy to accommodate your group by providing a pleasant place to meet. Take advantage of this break! There's a more relaxed atmosphere when no one particular member has to clean house, provide refreshments, make kids and hubbie disappear and play hostess all night. Even if your group's sales are just a few cups of coffee, it may be the first time some of your members have ever visited that coffee shop so now you've introduced them to a local business!

All these different ideas have one result --- the win-win combination of local book groups and local businesses. Please remember this post the next time you reach for a book with a big "% OFF!"sticker on it at Wal-Mart, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Sam's Club or any place where you know walking in the door that most of your dollar will leave your community and ask yourself: Is that 20 or 30% off really worth it?

---Jamie Layton