Binc Launches Feasibility Study for Bookstores in Underserved Markets

Abrams, the American Booksellers Association, HarperCollins Publishers, Litographs and Macmillan partner to fund research

Binc has engaged social impact consulting firm Strategic Growth Group (SGG) to research a possible framework for supporting bookstores in underserved markets. The research, which is being funded by $60,000 in donations from book industry partners Abrams, the American Booksellers Association, HarperCollins Publishers, Litographs and Macmillan will seek to determine if Binc’s mission might be expanded to include a program that helps owners purchase, expand, open or revitalize bookstores in communities without ready access to books and the community services independent bookstores often provide. SGG’s consultancy specializes in providing “expertise to develop innovative and pragmatic business strategies that create efficiencies, scale and, ultimately, financial sustainability.”

“In our daily work of supporting booksellers and bookstore owners, we see the vital and multi-faceted roles that independent bookstores play in communities,” said Binc Executive Director Pamela French. “They are important Main Street anchors, providing both social and economic benefits. They are gathering places, supporting child and adult literacy, fostering civic engagement, and serving as sanctuaries for the free exchange of ideas.”

Over the past five years, Binc has regularly been approached by potential bookstore owners seeking help opening or growing bookstores and by potential funders who want to support the growth of the book industry and the well-being of local communities. The Foundation has engaged SGG to determine the feasibility of a potential path to creating a sustainable program to support the development of bookstores in underserved markets.

One aspect the research will explore is the viability of a model that focuses on the social and economic benefits bookstores provide to communities or a double-bottom line model. Within this framework, Binc is working with a broad definition of “underserved” markets that encompasses book deserts, economically constrained communities, and communities of color where potential and existing owners may not have ready access to capital and other resources.

SGG’s research is underway and has included interviews and visioning sessions with bookstore owners, as well as publishing and book industry experts. The money supporting SGG’s research was donated specifically for this purpose. “We are grateful to the organizations that have come together to fund this study,” French said. “We appreciate their leadership in exploring the potential of a program designed to expand the reach and impact of independent bookstores.”

Binc expects a report later this year that summarizes the research findings including options for possible ways Binc might expand its mission to support the development of bookstores in underserved markets.

With the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic, Binc continues to respond to inquiries for individual emergency financial assistance at a higher level than would be expected in a typical year, but thanks to the generosity of donors from throughout the book and comics communities, no one who qualifies for help from Binc has been turned away.

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