Half-Price Books Opens New Stores While Other Retailers Close

Kathy Doyle Thomas, the Dallas-based bookseller’s executive vice president, explains what they’re doing differently to stay successful in an increasingly competitive market.

By Sebastian VegaJuly 7, 2015 2:51 pm

For better or worse, technology is changing how we consume media. More and more people are using streaming services like Netflix to watch movies. Online music retailers like iTunes are hurting sales at record stores. Now some fear that the rise of ebooks may have a similar effect on brick and mortar book stores.

Large companies like Amazon are making it easier and cheaper than ever to buy ebooks online, and bookstores are having trouble keeping up. Smaller mom and pop stores aren’t the only ones suffering — Barnes & Noble announced just recently that they’re planning to close 13 retail stores in coming months.

But one chain of Texas’ bookstores is doing well and adapting how they do business to keep up with the times. Half-Price Books is set to open four new stores this year and their plan seems to be paying off. So what are they doing to stay competitive?

Kathy Doyle Thomas is the executive vice president of the Dallas-based company. She highlights several reasons why the chain of stores is doing so well during tough times.

Slow and Cautious Growth:

“We don’t grow very quickly, but we grow cautiously. In markets that we think we can do well in, we will grow and we won’t open a store unless we can afford to pay for it. We don’t have any debt, we’ve always been very prudent and we’ve always had a slow-growth model. I think that’s served us well.”

New and Used Books:

“Over the last few years, we have changed our inventory and our merchandise mix to basically over what people want to buy. And what we found out from doing different research was that people wanted the new current bestseller — they wanted Divergent, they wanted the new Stephen King book, and we didn’t have it, and they were leaving our stores and going and buying them from Amazon or downloading to their e-device. So that’s when we made a commitment to start carrying New York Times best-sellers.”

Treasure Hunting for New Authors:

“Now you can buy books for 99 cents or a penny through Amazon and other marketplaces, but people come to brick and mortar stores to basically discover. They want to be inspired and they want to find new authors or find a new hobby… and you can’t find that online. Our stores are that kind of treasure hunt/escape thing for people. They didn’t know they wanted to read that author and they discover new authors every time they come and shop… it’s really the people that go in looking for nothing in particular.”

The Family Experience:

“As we continue to keep having places that people will get out of their pajamas and they get in their car and drive to our stores, then book stores will be successful and they’ll stay in business. Because we know that if people come and visit us and they shop us, they will buy more books and they will bring their family and they will teach their children to read and encourage them.”