Decatur’s Half Price Books store will be one of first in GeorgiaA Half Price bookstore recently opened in St. Louis. Photo from www.facebook.com/halfpricebooks
By Dena Mellick, Associate editor
A Half Price Books is opening in Decatur’s Suburban Plaza next spring, and while it will have your normal mystery, romance, and non-fiction sections, the store model is atypical.
“We buy back used books from the public so our merchandise is a little different because it reflects the community,” said Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Half Price Books.
Thomas said 60 percent of the merchandise in the store is used. The business also buys overstocks from publishers and has New York Times bestsellers in stock.
“And everything is half price, at the publisher’s price or less, and the New York Times bestsellers are 20 percent off,” Thomas said.
The store also buys and sells music and other entertainment – CDs, DVDs, even vinyl.
In a time when bookstores are folding, Half Price Books is expanding. There are currently about 125 bookstores, and Georgia will become the 17th state for the company with stores in Decatur and East Cobb County opening. And Half Price is planning to open additional bookstores in the Atlanta market.
“We’re a family-owned small company,” Thomas said. “We don’t have any debt. Our model is we know how many stores we can open. … We believe our model is going to work, and we have nice slow growth.”
Thomas noted, “People still like going to bookstores – there are not as many people who go into bookstores, but there still are people who are.”
Joe Davich, an assistant with the Decatur-based Georgia Center for the Book, which promotes events involving authors, said it’s a trend he’s noticed as well. He said Eagle Eye Bookshop, also located in Decatur, has a similar business model. He also said the market for e-books has flat-lined.
“I think people are going back to just a nice paperback tucked in a backpack, tucked in a purse, tucked under their arm riding on a bus,” Davich said. “I hate to say it’s a very retro thing to do, but it kind of is.”
Half Price Books is a private company, headquartered in Dallas, TX. The Anderson family opened its first bookstore in Dallas in 1972. Sharon Anderson Wright, daughter of the founders, is now CEO of the company.
“The company was started by a couple of hippies back in the early 70s and they wanted to make reading affordable to everyone,” Thomas said. “The mission was if we can’t sell it, we can give it away.”
And the company gives away more than one million books a year to non-profits all over the world, according to Thomas.
She said the company will be hiring locally – there are about 20 employees on average at each store.
The bookstore will be open seven days a week. Thomas said because of permitting and construction timelines, there is no opening date set yet.
Thomas said at previous store openings, there have been about 150 people in line, waiting for the new bookstore location to open. She said the company believes bookstores need to stay in business, and it appeals to those who love to browse and find that book they didn’t know they needed.
“A lot go to e-readers and Amazon, and so we have to make it special to have people go into one of our stores,” Thomas said.