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Sell More Books To Airport Stores,

Supermarkets And Drug Stores

Brian Jud


On the surface, there may not seem much in common when selling books to airport bookstores, supermarkets and drug stores; but there are similarities. In fact, selling to these buyers is much like to marketing to bookstores. You sell through a distribution partner, the distributors’ discounts may reach 70%, returns are common, and payment terms may exceed 90 days. On the other hand, the rewards of immediate national distribution can be significant. 


Fly High With Sales to Airport Bookstores

All major airports have at least one bookstore, surrounded by a captive audience of weary travelers looking for something to do to help pass time. What better way while away the hours than by reading a good book? Your book? Apparently many travelers seek that option because “a major store in a large airport will sell between $1 and $2 million of books each year” says Kathleen Willoughby of Bookazine.


Bookstores in most small airports have space constraints limiting the titles they stock to only the top fiction and non-fiction titles as well as the popular classics. But a title does not have to be a bestseller to find its way into the stores in large airports. These shops will carry titles by local and regional authors, as well as books pertaining to its specific locale and destination points. For example, the title Fenway: A Biography in Words and Pictures by Dan Shaughnessy and Stan Grossfeld, can be found in bookstores in Boston's Logan Airport.


Titles for children tend to do well in these outlets, as do titles for business travelers who spend a good amount of time in airports. Also titles on management, investment, economics, business biography, personal finance and health work well in the airport setting.


Summertime is the peak travel period, and as you would expect, it is also the peak bookselling period. There is a bump in sales in the fourth-quarter holiday season, too. Softcover books seem to sell more units than casebound, and the typical size is 6” x 9”. Your book must have an ISBN, EAN bar code and its price printed on the rear cover, although some exceptions are made for non-book items.


    The major airport bookstore chains are listed below, and you can reach buyers for these stores directly. When you submit your material to them, send a complete package with everything they need to make a favorable decision. “The more the better,” says Randy Yarbrough of Anderson News.”


Your package should contain a copy of your book, your terms, a summary marketing plan, reviews, sales history and newspaper articles. Include contact information for your distributor or wholesaler since airport stores place their orders through them, using them as both suppliers and warehousers. Call to learn their specific submission guidelines before sending your package.


HMS Host, Book Buyer; 6600 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD, 20817; 866 467-4671 


Paradies Shops operates over 100 airport stores. Contact the National Book Buyer, 5950 Fulton Industrial Boulevard SW, P O Box 43485, Atlanta GA 30336; 404-344-7905; Fax: 404-349-7539.


W.H. Smith operates or owns 255 airport shops and 421 hotel stores under the names of WHSmith, WHSmith Booksellers, Waterstone's Booksellers, WHSmith and Benjamin Books. In late 2003, The Hudson Group bought 180 airport stores, including a number of Waterstone’s bookstore outlets. Contact the National Book Buyer, 3200 Windy Hill Road #1500 W, Atlanta GA 30339; 770-952-0705; Fax: 770-951-1352.


The buyer will review your material to determine if there is a market for your title. If they deem that your title might be appropriate, you will be asked to complete a vendor questionnaire. Since most books are displayed cover out, the front cover design is critical to the title’s success. Airport stores rarely discount the books, so your list price is important, too. Sales are made on a returnable basis and standard wholesale terms are expected.


Most distributors and wholesalers will sell your books to airport stores. When you send your material to them, describe the number of books per carton and how many units were published. Also include information about who is providing sales, marketing and distribution services on your behalf.

You can generally expect to be paid 50% of the amount due you in 90 days and the balance in 180 days. The 50% unpaid balance is held as a reserve against returns. Once your book “takes off” you can usually negotiate different terms. Bookazine and Anderson News are two of the larger wholesalers to airport stores.

New Vendor Development Coordinator, Bookazine Co., Inc., 75 Hook Road, Bayonne, NJ 07002. Complete submission guidelines for Bookazine may be found at

Anderson News Co. (Knoxville, TN), Purchasing Division; 6016 Brookvale Lane, Ste. 151, Knoxville, TN, 37919; Tel: (865) 584-9765; Fax: (865)584-9400


Selling to Supermarkets and Drug Stores

There are tens of thousands of supermarkets and drug stores of all sizes around the country. Many of these sell books, booklets and videos. Some of the larger supermarket chain stores – such as Kroger -- actually have a bookstore, rather than a book section. The means of marketing to these two segments is similar, so they will be discussed together.


In the past, most of the sales through these outlets were mass-market paperbacks, but today’s super stores carry a wide variety of books, cards and magazines. That is why the middlemen distributing to this market usually stock the shelves with both books and magazines.


“This is one area in which fiction outsells non-fiction,” says John Styron of Anderson News, a sister company to Anderson Merchandisers and one of the wholesalers reaching this niche. Other titles that sell well are those by local and regional authors and those about local and regional topics. There is less opportunity for hardcover titles, particularly in supermarkets.


Randy Yarbrough believes that sales to this segment “are very likely” for independent publishers. “We sell their titles all the time,” he notes. Steve Linville of The News Group holds an opposing view, saying, “There is not a lot of shelf space dedicated to the category.”  He continues with, “It can be frustrating for a small publisher to break into the market, given the returns, discounts and dating required.”


Steve recounts the tale of one author who showed many retailers his book and asked how many they might purchase. Their responses added up to over 30,000 copies, so that is how many he printed. Unfortunately, when it came time to actually place the orders the numbers were significantly lower.


Randy and Steve agree that “supermarkets discount the list price up to 25%, so your pricing must allow for that to occur profitably.” The list price on books sold in drugstores should be $15.95 or lower, with a price below $10 the norm in supermarkets. However, the price could go up to $20.00 or more for a hardcover book sold in a supermarket. They also concur “that cookbooks, travel books and regional titles do well in supermarkets, but health-related topics move better in drugstores, particularly in the form of booklets.” Steve adds, “Children’s titles also seem to do well in supermarkets. Fiction remains he mainstay in these outlets.”


Authors may conduct booksignings at supermarkets and drugstores in which their books are being sold. “One of our authors recently sold 500 copies of her book during a recent booksigning at a Ralph’s supermarket in California,” says Mr. Yarbrough. Steve Linville cautions, “Cross-merchandising is not as easy as it may seem, because several different buyers may be involved.”


   Author and consultant Eric Gelb has sold successfully to supermarkets. Eric said, “Some years back, I sold several hundred copies of my book, the Personal Budget Planner to a nearby supermarket chain. The company managed the bookracks in the supermarket. The sale was final and the exposure was valuable. Several months ago, our local Mail Boxes, Etc. store took copies of our Mastering Communication Through Technology on consignment. While small, this effort was profitable, and the store marketed no other books at that time. Once, we located a consumer buying service who purchased a quantity of our personal finance books to give away as a new member bonus.”


The competition in this segment is stiff, due to the limited shelf-space granted to books. The hot button for these stores is “profit per square foot.” If you can demonstrate that your promotional activities will help bring in new customers and profits, you will get their attention. You may submit your book and marketing package directly to the major supermarket chains, but they normally direct you to their wholesalers. Three major supermarket chains are:


Kroger Co, 1014 Vine St., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202-1100; Tel:  (513) 762-4000


Safeway Inc., Judy Russell – Book Buyer, 5918 Stoneridge Mall Rd., Pleasanton, California, 94588-3229; Tel:  (925) 520-8000    (877) 723-3929    Fax: FX - USA (925) 467-3321


Stop and Shop Companies Inc., 1385 Hancock St., Quincy, Massachusetts, 02169-5510; Book Buyer:  (617) 770-8743


Distributors to supermarkets include:

Anderson News Co. (Knoxville, TN), 6016 Brookvale Lane, Ste. 151, Knoxville, TN

37919; Tel:  (865) 584-9765 Fax: (865) 584-9400 Magazines, books, videos and music to supermarkets, drugstores, airport stores and military exchanges.


Hudson News Co., 1 Meadowlands Piz. Ste. 902, East Rutherford, New Jersey, 07073; Tel: (201) 939-5050    (800) 326-7711  Fax: (201)939-6652  Willard Goldberger - Vice President, Merchandising


The News Group West services major retail chains in the West, with a dominant share of the Washington, Oregon and Alaska markets; 3400 D Industry Drive East, Fife, Washington, 98424;  253.922.8011  Fax:  253.896.5027  


   When you submit a title to these distributors, include a color sell sheet with all the pertinent information on your title. Include the price, author, case quantities, and a photo of any floor displays you could provide.


   It is interesting to note that these buyers do not always wait for publishers to contact them. If they, or their sales people note your title in a local news story, in Publishers Weekly or at a trade show, they may seek it out according to its applicability. Again, it behooves you to seek as much exposure as possible for your titles.


Brian Jud is the author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly book) and The Marketing Planning CD. He also wrote the series of booklets, Proven Tips for Publishing Success. Contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT  06001; (800) 562-4357; or visit