Selling Books in the Church: Selling it Old Skool

This is the fourth post in a six part series on establishing and maintaining a church book table, stall, or store. Many of the ideas and experiences are based on the bookstall at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC where I have been blessed to serve as Deacon of Bookstall for over two and a half years. This post looks at the practical implementation of a low cost sales and inventory system.

So How Do We Get Started?

When I became Deacon of Bookstall, we were a paper and spreadsheet operation. Though we have recently moved to an electronic point of sale system, most of my experience is with the low tech system described here.

The most expensive item we used was a cash box (available from office supply stores for approximately $20). We keep $100 in low bills in the cash box to make change. When we run low on low bills, I run to the bank during the week and bring back low bills for the next opening.

Sales are marked with a simple hash mark next to the title of the book on a sales sheet. This sheet lists all of the titles stocked on the bookstall, sorted alphabetically by author’s last name. When the bookstall volunteers balance sales at closing, they will manually multiply these hash marks by the price of the book (also on the sales sheet) and then manually total sales of all items.

The last page of this sales sheet (including total sales and signatures of the volunteers) is remitted to the church administrator with all payment above the $100 left in the cash box. The entire sales sheet is used to manually update a spreadsheet used to track inventory levels. Physically counts are regularly performed to correct discrepancies between the spreadsheet and the physical stock.

If the spreadsheet has recently been reconciled with the physical stock, orders can be placed based on the inventory reported in the spreadsheet. Over time, the spreadsheet will offer insight into reordering as it shows which books sell more rapidly. Experience also teaches which books are more popular at certain times of the year or for discipling relationships.

The primary advantage of this method is that it is very inexpensive. The primary challenge is that it is subject to greater human error in making change, marking titles sold, and entering sales data manually into the spreadsheet. Calculation of sales tax may, depending on the tax law in your state, also be difficult with the system described above. Still, our bookstall (which started as a book table) effectively used this method for over ten years. We switched to the electronic system described in the next post only a month ago.

J.A. Ingold is Deacon of Bookstall at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. You can see what he’s reading at Bookpress.

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