Amanda Quain, social media manager for Arlington bookstore One More Page books, said the store has “the best problem” right now and one many other struggling retail locations would love to have: they are overwhelmed with orders.
The independent book store at 2200 N. Westmoreland Street in East Falls Church has been closed to public browsing since the pandemic started, but inside Quain said the shop is buzzing with staff putting together boxes and taking phone calls from customers.
While book stores nationwide are struggling, Quain said the pandemic has pushed the shop into an online shopping focus that’s changed how the business operates.
“We’re not planning on opening anytime soon,” Quain said. “We’re too small to do both online orders and letting people browse. We’ve had to get rid of a lot of fixtures and shelves that make shop feel cozy. Don’t want people to linger in the post-pandemic world. Sitting and staying a while have to go away. We hope increased online business goes to in-store after, but we also hope to maintain online sales.”
The store recently celebrated 10,000 orders.
ORDER TEN THOUSAND HAS BEEN PASSED pic.twitter.com/g7k4avMcI7
— One More Page Books (@justonemorepage) June 15, 2020
Those online sales have created a new community around the bookstore that tries to replicate the experience of browsing and getting a recommendation, though Quain said the staff are busier than ever because that takes longer when not done in-person.
“A lot of it’s easier to do in-store, like recommending books, but that takes longer when that’s email or phone call,” Quain said. “We’re having the best problem. We’re very overwhelmed with orders and don’t have the staff to support it.”
Quain said One More Page also did a website redesign a year ago, which put the store in a good position when the pandemic started and customers started seeking out local businesses to support while social distancing.
The big sales come in waves, Quain said, and are often driven by trends.
“With a lot of the talk about antiracism and books by black authors there been a lot of those [sold],” Quain said. “Those are books like How to Be an Anti-Racist. We’ve been steadily increasing, but that was the biggest jump.”
The pandemic has also driven the One More Page community to other products, like puzzles.
“Whenever we have puzzles on the website, those go pretty fast,” Quain said. “About a month ago we had one each of our puzzles and we auctioned them off. It was a steady price, whoever claimed it first got it. We were lucky, there no fighting, everyone was chill.”
Early on in the pandemic, Quain said the big push was for children’s books and workbooks. That intensified even more as summer vacation started. Quain said a lot of sales were driven by the Washington Post Summer Book Club for children.
“In the before-times, we would try to predict trends,” Quain said. “We don’t have as much time to do that now. It’s been more reactive than we like but it gives us a cool idea of what books people want. Some of them are books we’ve never heard of, or books we start stocking now.”
Quain said the big part of the book store’s survival has been flexibility, both for the store and trying to instill that in customers. There were frustrations early on, Quain said, when shipments that used to arrive overnight were taking a week or more to deliver.
That flexibility has also created some innovative new products at the store. One of the more popular, Quain said, is the One More Page surprise box. Customers pay $100 and answer extensive questions about their reading preferences, and staff put together a customized box based on recommendations.
Photo via One More Page Books/Facebook