Post-sale, the next phase of managing our inventory is returning books that don't sell. Some stores rarely send books back to the publisher, preferring to discount them and clear shelves that way. Others run a tight ship and return any book that hasn't sold in three months. We fall somewhere in the middle.
This week, I'm pulling any title that hasn't sold since March. If no one has been interested in five months, there's probably a reason. I don't mean to imply that something is wrong with the books, because that's not always true. Sometimes a title just isn't right at our store at this time, or it just isn't a hit with our demographic. For example, I found some Valentine's Day themed books in a dusty corner of the store. They're great, but it's the wrong season and we're unlikely to find a buyer. So they went straight to the return pile. Adult graphic novels also don't do very well, which I attribute to the fact that we have a thriving and wonderful comic book store less than a mile away. So I ended up pulling a lot of those, too. They're great comics - many of them are ones I own and enjoy - but for whatever reason, we have trouble selling them.
It's hard not to get sentimental for favorite books. When I pulled a Christopher Moore title for returns, I was so bummed because he's one of my favorite authors. I don't know why we don't sell him! My boss has trouble with this, too. When I was processing returns last week, there were several books she pulled out of the pile because they are classics. In fact, she calls them "wallpaper", titles that are integral to the character of the store and thus should always be in stock.
I've been at the store for about ten months. I have to admit, I have a few wallpaper titles too. So far, they've been selling well enough that there's no need to worry about taking them out of inventory, but when that day eventually comes I wonder if I'll be standing there, grabbing them out of the return pile and putting them back on the shelves.