How to open a bookstore

Editorial Team

5 min read
People sorting through books at bookstore

Not so long ago, it seemed as if big chains were making it difficult for local bookstores to compete in the market. These days, readers are flocking to independent bookstores, building communities, and contributing to a renaissance in the local bookstore scene.

If you’re thinking of starting a bookstore, this guide can help you find your foundation.

Business planning & market research

One of the first steps to consider before opening a bookstore is doing the research and preparing answers for some questions that financiers may ask when determining whether to loan you money. Three questions you’ll need to consider are:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What is your business plan?

Think about your vision for the bookstore. What kind of books do you want to sell? Who is your ideal customer? What do they want or need in a bookstore? For example, will they stop in to buy coffee and browse books on their lunch break from work? Business books and biographies may be prime areas of interest for this audience—or they may want a break from work with pop culture trends.

Survey other local bookstores near you. Take note of what they offer, who they target, and how your bookstore will be different. A local bookstore focused on children’s books serves a different audience than one within a business district.

Choose a name/brand & register your business

Your business will need a name that readers will remember. Once you’ve decided on that, you’ll need to pick a legal structure for your business, such as an LLC, and register your business with the city or state in which you plan to operate. You may also need to obtain a business license

It’s a good idea to consult with your municipalities on the requirements for opening a business, and even speak to a business lawyer who can advise you on the best course of action. They’ll make sure you don’t miss any legal steps.

How much does it cost to open a bookstore?

The cost of opening a bookstore depends on the real estate market, size of the space, furniture and fixtures needed, physical inventory, technology, and more. A general range is $18,000 to $50,000, with many stores spending an average of $30,000 for the majority of startup costs.

When searching for the ideal commercial space, consider that location drives traffic. The ease of parking or accessibility can dictate whether customers will buy a book from your shop, pick it up from the big box bookstore while running errands, or order it online. It may be a better business decision to pay more for a desirable location, and the chance for higher foot traffic, than save money if it puts your bookshop in an out-of-the-way locale.

Opening a bookstore checklist

Use this independent bookstore business plan to stay on track as you develop and launch your business idea:

  • Choose a location: Avoid the temptation to rush through the market research and real estate phase. Independent bookstore owners agree that location is one of the most important drivers of success.
  • Acquire inventory: Your inventory is what sets you apart from other bookstores. Give your audience a reason to shop in your store by investing in inventory that will appeal to your customers.
  • Set up a POS system: You’ll need a POS system to accept payments, track sales, and manage inventory.
  • Hire and train staff: Take your time to write an employee handbook, and hire and train employees before you open the bookstore. Time spent up front can help pay you back by enabling your new bookstore to run smoothly when you open.
  • Promote your store: You may want to consider launching a website with eCommerce capabilities that can help you draw sales from customers near and far. Don’t forget to set up your social media accounts to announce your grand opening, new book launches, author appearances, and other news and events.

Ways to make your bookstore stand out

While people in the neighborhood may pop into your new store to check it out, how are you going to convince them to stick around? Three words: customer retention strategies.

The right customer retention strategy can help make your business stand out while creating brand awareness.

Here are a few examples to guide your thinking. These are general strategies; you’ll want to customize them to your audience and geographic location:

  • Offer more than books: From coffee to board games, bookstores have long found a path to success by offering inventory beyond the written word.
  • Host events: Book launches, book clubs, and game nights are three examples of events that can help bring customers into the bookshop.
  • Be thematic: Themes can give people a reason to visit your store. Plan themes around holidays, seasons, or important events and topics for your target audience.
  • Connect to the community: Bookstores thrive when they are seen as a community space. Consider offering a billboard to the community, hosting meetings, and other ways to be a good neighbor.

Run your bookstore with Clover

We hope this guide to opening a bookstore gives you a better understanding of what you need to get started.

We know starting a small business can be challenging. Find out how Clover’s POS systems for bookstores can help you run all aspects of your operation.


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