Few grocery customers know that food companies pay nine billion dollars for shelf space (“slotting fees”), accounting for one-half of stores’ annual profits. In simple terms, they’re renting shelf space. Paying that kind of money, the manufacturer makes sure its product is displayed on the shelf to its best advantage—that is, face-out. This visibility is so connected to sales, the low-paying companies receive the worst seats in the house—the top and bottom shelves.
The reason companies want each product face-out is simple: It’s the cover that most often influences our choices—the picture of the cookie, cereal, cake mix, or magazine. Any magazine editor can tell you immediately the names of the persons whose images will immediately boost newsstand sales (once it was Diana, then it was Oprah, now it’s Brad or Brittany).
Compare that successful marketing approach with what we do with books and children. I often get the feeling that if most children’s librarians were brought in as consultants for the grocery industry, the first thing they’d suggest would be to turn all the boxes and bags sideways to squeeze more of them onto the shelf.
Unlike grocery stores, some libraries haven’t discovered that face-out marketing enhances circulation.
I remember this idea from The Read-Aloud Handbook, but I’ve never figured out quite how to implement it.
I’m not talking about positioning every book face-out. Bookstores don’t place every book face-out, but the ones they really want to move—the new arrivals, the bestsellers—always go face-out. Unlike most educators and librarians, publishers know the cover sells the book, so not only do they work extra-hard designing the right cover, many pay the book chains as much as $750 a month per book to have the cover showing.20 That’s how important the cover is.
Nonetheless, classroom teachers have even less room than libraries for this approach. In response to the space challenge, a few years ago a teacher (whose name I wish I had jotted down) told me how she’d solved the problem by installing rain gutters in the dead spaces throughout her classroom: the space between the chalk ledge and the floor, the two-foot space between the closet and the chalkboard. Then another teacher sent me photographs of the rain gutters she’d installed.
Somehow, “dead space” isn’t immediately obvious in my house. There’s the hallway, but given how often several of us are passing each other at once, I’m reluctant to narrow it farther. There’s a couple of feet in the bathroom, but I don’t want the kids camping out in there. Behind the doors? How useful is that? (How deep are these gutters, anyway?)
Has anybody tried this? Where did you place your rain gutter bookshelves?