Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shopping for a Cause with Our Upcoming Shopping Nights

One idea that I was enthusiastic to carry over from Schwartz (Thank you to Mary, Nancy, Doug, and whomever else was involved in putting this together) were shopping nights, when schools and other nonprofits would get folks to come to an event at the store and get back a percentage of the purchases.

During my tenure at Schwartz, I helped tweak the program a little. The original plan called for private Sunday evening events only, but that only worked when the event was a blowout. We changed it so the purchase was coded through the Schwartz Gives Back program, thus making it something we could do anytime the store was open. And we carried that system over to Boswell Benefits

When we host a shopping night, it's up to you. Either your purchases is coded to Boswell Benefits, giving you back a $5 coupon for every hundred dollar purchase. Or your purchase becomes part of the shopping night, and 10% goes back to the organization. Folks who know book retail follow that 10% of the gross comes out to about 25% of the net. Like Boswell Benefits, it doesn't accrue on our lowest margin items, like newspapers, markdowns, and textbooks. It does, however, accrue on Boswell's Best and book club selections.

My other change was to help these events along by working with them on programming. When possible, I've tried to pair appropriate authors with the event. And we've tried to be creative at offering them. I'm not likely to pair a superstar author with a shopping night, but for our middle level authors, why not help each other? We get more turnout (which makes the publisher happy) and we bring in people who might help the cause (which makes the partner happy).

Here's what we've got going on for the season:

Wednesday, November 10th, 7 PM--Wisconsin Humane Society.
This is in conjunction with event for Dogs and the Women who Love Them, with Linda and Allen Anderson. This event has a lot going on:
--Linda and Allen will talk about their book.
--Dog lovers are invited to bring pictures of their canine companion for a photo contest. The winner gets a prize from Ecopet on Brady Street.*
--Said lovers will be encouraged to speak about their special dog experiences
--The Wisconsin Humane Society will have a table. Among other things, they are conducting a raffle to win a Mini Cooper.
--Friend of Boswell, Anne Reed, the Wisconsin Humane Society's executive director, will introduce the author. You should all know that Anne was one of my angels, helping me with legal issues when planning Boswell, and this is a big, big, big, big, big, big, big thank you to her.
--10% of designated purchases go back to the WHS.

Tuesday, November 16th, 7 PM--Milwaukee Public Library.
It's an everything but the kitchen sink extravaganza, for a Boswell favorite, Tom Franklin's, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. This program grew out of a conversation that we were having about collaborations. We do a lot of great programs with the library (oh, just wait till you see who we have for the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library luncheon!) but wouldn't it be fun to have a library program at the store?
--Paula Kiely, director of the Milwaukee Public Library, will introduce Franklin
--There will be a table where you can get info on the library (I'm pretty sure that nearby East is getting their Saturday hours back) and you'll even be able to sign up electronically for a library card.
--It's the launch of Fill the Shelves, the Katie Gingrass Gallery partnership where folks can buy books for the library. Head book acquirer Tom (an old friend of ours--he used to be one of my sales reps) came up with a list of most-needed titles. After tonight, the program will move down to the gallery, where it will stay through Christmas.
--And yes, 10% of designated purchases that night will go back to the Milwaukee Public Library.

Saturday, December 4th, at either 11 AM or 2 PM, depending on when the basketball game is scheduled--St. Robert's School in Shorewood.
One of the first things I did at Boswell was visit St. Robert's School for their semi-annual student reading. We did a little brainstorming and experimented with moving the reading to Boswell.
--So many kids sign up that we usually set up three stages. The students can recite an original work or read from one of their favorite books.
--10% of designated purchases go back to the school during a three hour period around the event. It's quite fun and we actually had some attendees last fall who didn't even know the kids.

Sunday, December 5th, 5-8 PM--Maryland Avenue Montessori School Pajama Party
--This has been the traditional seasonal launch of the Maryland Avenue Montessori art exhibit in the store. I'm not sure where we stand with that this year. I'll find out.
--There are refreshments and storytimes, and yes, a little bit of chaos
--A designated percentage of purchases go back to Maryland Avenue School, directly into a Boswell gift card that helps teachers buy books for their classroom. It's a more complicated formula than our other shopping nights--the percentage is higher but the purchases are not made at the normal school purchase order discount.

Thursday, December 9th, 4-9 PM--Shorewood SEED Foundation, which helps the Shorewood public schools.
We've been working with SEED since the store opened, and this year we're taking it to another level. I was talking with Elaine Schmidt, a Shorewood resident who has written a book called Hey Mom, Listen to This: A Parent's Guide to Music, and since we'd already been taking about bringing in some student musicians for our SEED event, I asked Schmidt if she'd consider becoming involved. It's still a little tentative, but I can tell you what is likely:
--Schmidt will talk at 7 PM. I think is confirmed, but I'm not ultra-positive.
--We'll have several student groups perform beforehand
I do need to firm this down, as our December press release is almost due.

Oops, I just realized I was having a conversation back and forth about a talk with the Milwaukee Hurling Club, but I have nothing on paper. That's why at least part of our talk has to to be on email, so I have a record! I wonder where we are on this...

There's not much more we can add for this year, but it's not too late to think about next year. Here are our requirement:
1. This is a program to drive people into the bookstore. We only do a limited amount of marketing for the program. We will allow an 8x11 sign in the vestibule and will mention it in an email.
2. It's fairly staightforward--10% back in a check on designated purchases, or 15% in a Boswell gift card. No discounts apply to the gift card.
3. There needs to be some sort of programming involved.
4. No soliciting of customers you don't know in the store, please.

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