“We’re here for five-year-olds, grandmas, and everyone in between.”
For Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Arizona, community outreach is more than just being a good corporate citizen – it also makes great business sense.
Last time on the blog I spoke with Bookmans Marketing Director Sheila Kressler-Crowley about their recent Schools Challenge. It’s just one element of a fun, creative vision of community partnership which stretches from sponsoring a rollerderby team to themed events aimed at teens (a Scott Pilgrim dating night) and toddlers (Dr. Seuss storytelling sessions, pictured above).
Sheila attributes the Bookmans spirit to founder Bob Oldfather, who took over his father’s second-hand bookstore in 1976.
“Bob’s like the anti-retailer,” says Sheila. “Dogs are allowed in, bringing your own food is encouraged. The stores are meant to be a real cool place to hang out – and it just so happens we also sell stuff here.”
When Zoe Toft led me to discover Bookmans on Twitter, their Online Content Co-ordinator Rebecca Ballender managed to explain the store’s philosophy well within the 140-character limit: “Ads are fine, but we’d rather hang out with our friends.”
The chain’s business model, built on buying and selling used goods, benefits from a community outreach approach to marketing.
As Sheila says, ““Working in the used media trade, we buy from and sell to everyone. What we have on our shelves is a direct reflection of what the community brings in. With 250 employees and a bottom line to fulfil, we’d be foolish not to give back to them!”
For Sheila, a former radio DJ who joined the team in a community role six years ago, Bookmans’ values chime well with her belief in servant leadership – a management approach which emphasises humility and duty to others.
“I remember finding a 1947 Girl Scout handbook in one of our stores,” she told me over the phone last week. “It had belonged to a girl who was also called Sheila, and she’d lovingly filled it in over the years. All those aspirations – her dedication and love for her troop – it spoke to my own belief in community service.”
From Australian mining companies to British media distributors, I’ve seen many occasions where compassion, creativity and business sense coincide – but Bookmans stands out as a retailer who has turned a trade in used books into a bastion of progressive values at the heart of their community. Find out more at their website.
All images (c) Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, via Bookmans’ Flickr Photostream.