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What Hammocks and Super Soakers Teach Us About the Bookstore Industry

Posted by Rob Heller on 9/20/16 5:00 AM
Topics: retail management, MBS Rental

Sure, I’ll admit I was drifting a little bit. Stretched out in the hammock, enjoying the last of those sweet summer rays. Jimmy Buffett was on the speakers. I could almost feel those gentle, coconut trade winds swaying my swing — back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

What Hammocks and Super Soakers Teach Us About the Bookstore Industry

Have you ever sensed that feeling you’re being watched? Just before you make that drift into unconsciousness, you take a final peak. You expect to see puffy, white clouds against the backdrop of deep blue sky. Yeah, that’s what you expect, and you sway, back and forth.

What you don’t expect is a 5-year-old hovering over you with a pump-action Super Soaker, pointed directly at your chest.

"Go back to sleep, Daddy!”

Daddy was awake; Daddy was alarmingly awake at that point. Hammocks weren’t made to get out of, not quickly anyway. There is no graceful way to exit a hammock, and the back and forth that was such a pleasant experience a few minutes earlier was now a hindrance.

“Daddy, go back to sleep!”

Oh no, there was no going back to sleep for Daddy. One arm caught and slightly twisted in the white, cotton hammock netting, the other hand firmly planted on the brick patio pavers to prevent him from flipping, Daddy was wide awake.

Sometimes we feel too comfortable. On occasion, we’re too content. We sway back and forth as if the breeze will never leave. We feel this way in hammocks, and we feel this way in college bookstores.

We get complacent. We’d do rental, but we don’t have that one piece on our point of sale.  Sure, some students ask for rental, but we’ve never done it, so, you know, back and forth. It’s the easy way to sway back and forth, sort of sleep your way through it.

And then you wake up and panic. You’re under the attack of an administrator who wants to know why your store is not offering a program, or a competitor takes market share, or there's a threat of your store going lease. Reactions don’t always come easy when you’re asleep.

We like to talk about how our industry changes. Often times our biggest threats aren’t external. Complacency to the status quo is a challenge to ourselves. It’s a challenge to break the lull, to avoid rocking yourself to sleep.

MBS can be your partner. Whether it’s systems, wholesale strategy or operational, MBS can help enhance your services. It’s comfortable to sway back and forth. It’s wiser to look for the water guns.

Like Rob's writings? Check out more at his personal blog, MBS Rob.

About Rob Heller

Rob Heller began work with MBS in the Wholesale Division in 2012, but his bookstore experiences stretch several decades. He began his career in the early 1990s with College Bookstores of America at their off-campus location serving Clemson University. Rob is also an accomplished sports broadcaster having announced nearly 2,500 games including the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. He has served as the home stadium announcer for Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, and several professional baseball and soccer teams. He and his wife currently reside in Elgin, South Carolina, (near Columbia) along with their three boys.

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