<i>Survey Results:</i> Should Book Fairs Offer a 20% Discount on All Items?
"Let's keep this simple. There is no such thing as a 'discounted price'. There is simply 'the price.'"
As we can see, there are problems with the idea. Offering a 20% discount may be difficult for a low-price seller. The cost of book fairs needs to be covered, and some buyers may demand a deal on top of the 20% discount. Some dealers feel it "cheapens" what they offer, or interferes with discounts they offer for multiple purchases or regular customers. Even those in favor of the proposal were stumped by how to deal with the dealer-to-dealer 20% on top of a 20% show discount. However, while there are problems with implementing such a proposal, all problems pale next to that of being a dealer with insufficient sales, or a show with inadequate traffic. These aren't issues of implementation, but issues of survival. First issues first.
Everyone loves a bargain. Time and again, discounts have proven to be the best marketing strategy ever devised. However, we need to remember there are two elements to a bargain - real value and perceived value. Low prices may not do the trick if customers don't realize they are low. On the other hand, phony bargains - already high prices jacked up another 20% to create a 20% "discount" - will quickly be seen through by buyers. Customers must both believe they are getting good deal and get one. Provide both and they are much more likely to buy.
That said, we will offer a few alternatives to the everything discounted 20% scenario for those who can't fit that model. How about a series of discount book fairs - not all fairs, just an occasional one, like a once-a-year sale in each area? Booksellers could leave items they are unwilling to discount at home, though hopefully they would still bring most of their better material. It could be a "20% and up" or "20-70% sale" for even greater impact, and more help moving the slowest inventory. Alternatively, regular fairs could promote sale items, perhaps guaranteeing that some percentage of each bookseller's inventory will be sold for 20% or more off, or promising that each dealer will have a discount table. That way, sellers could still show material they are unwilling to discount while gaining the benefits of having a sale. Of course, dealers would have to offer more than the dregs of their inventory at discount or customers will quickly feel deceived by the process.
These are tough times for booksellers and book fairs. Sales and discounts are the greatest marketing strategy ever invented. There should be some way of using this great marketing tool to help sellers and fairs do more business.