The little bookstore that could

Despite my best efforts, this Black Friday I was dragged out of my house to go shopping with the family.

We drove over an hour to this shopping outlet in Manchester, VT, where they have Kate Spade, Armani and a bunch of other big deal designer shops I can’t remember.

Here’s a side note: I live in New York State and there are a ton of articles online about how my state is the most unfriendliest to businesses.

But I disagree. Vermont is way unfriendlier by a mile.

During a Bachelor Party brewery tour in Burlington, our guide discussed (proudly) how unfriendly VT is toward businesses.

The entire state doesn’t allow billboard advertising. Fast food restaurants aren’t allowed to build drive-thrus because it panders to the state’s outdoorsy folk. For the longest time they didn’t allow Wal-Mart stores to do business in VT (I don’t blame them either).

But in that shopping outlet is a small bookstore called Northshire Books. It’s been there as long as I can remember, but it’s been in business for over 40 years.

I remember only wanting to go there as a kid because there was nothing else to see or do when my parents wanted to go shopping there. There wasn’t even a toy store so this was the next best spot.

And since that time, decades have gone by where Borders and Barnes & Noble have driven places like Waldenbooks and smaller stores completely out of business.

A few months after Borders went out of business nationwide, I even remember Northshire opened up a 2nd store about 20 minutes away from me.

If you own a bookstore, and you’re doing better than breaking even, what are you really selling anyways?

And yet on Black Friday that little bookstore in VT was the busiest store in the entire shopping area. In all of its 2 floors, it was packed wall-to-wall with annoying kids and their poor parents.

I worked with a girl at a sales job a few years ago who opened up that 2nd store, and I asked how Northshire could even compete with Amazon.

She simply told me, and I’m paraphrasing this, ‘They can’t compete at all, so they don’t even try.’ She said, they try to create an environment people actually want to go and hang out.

And then on Black Friday, it finally dawned on me. This bookstore only prospers because it attracts a certain type of customer.

The store is right in the middle of a high-class designer shopping outlet. On top of that, the store is the only bookstore in the entire outlet.

My friend, who opened the 2nd location, told me the reason they opened a 2nd store was because people didn’t want to drive over an hour away, so they gave the original owners money as investors.

They also don’t just create an environment where people want to just stop-in and hang out. They’re in a money-making environment already with all the boutique stores around them, so they’re already attracting customers with money, who’re ready to spend.

On top of that, the people that stop in aren’t shopping for the lowest price. They stop in and they happen to buy something on a whim, or they see a neat gift idea, or they buy something for their kids.

It’s not all about how you market to your customers. It’s about finding out who your ideal customer is, who’ll spend the most money with you.