Dear People’s Books Co-op Members, Volunteers, Customers, Friends, and Allies:
People’s Books Cooperative (PBC) is holding a Special General Membership Meeting on Sunday, March 1st at 3pm at the Jazz Gallery, 926 E. Center Street. The purpose of this meeting is to talk to members about People’s financial situation and to discuss the future of our cooperative.
Textbooks sales account for the majority of People’s Books annual operating revenue, with small amounts of revenue coming from other sources: event tabling, online book sales, and small jumps in trade sales at various times of the year. The co-op has existed using this model for the last seven years. A difficulty found in this model is that we are unaware of exactly where we stand financially until we finalize numbers for the current semester’s textbook sales. It is only then that we know quite literally how many months of operating costs we are able to cover. Generally, any shortfalls are arguably manageable, and we are able to make them up. However, over the last few semesters, People’s has been living in a more precarious financial situation, existing nearly hand to mouth, from semester to semester, making it more difficult to make up shortfalls. This year is no different. After finalizing spring 2015 semester sales, we found that we have fallen short by nearly five months. That equates to about $13,000. As it stands, People’s Books Co-op has enough money to survive through March, and possibly April.
The shortfall in textbook sales over the last few years is due in part to two factors: 1) extreme competition from the UW-Milwaukee bookstore using a textbook policy which works directly against PBC and our allied instructors and 2) competition from online retailers offering discounts on textbooks that most brick and mortar stores cannot compete with.
Combined with little foot traffic, a decline in trade sales, lack of diversified income, and increased local competition, these challenges have led to a decrease in the revenue we utilize to fill the textbook sale gaps. This is a trend many bookstores nationwide have experienced over the last few years. In addition, making up for shortfalls and falling margins creates an increase in labor time needed from staff and volunteers, which inevitably detracts from accomplishing the myriad of other tasks and projects needed to run a successful business and achieve our mission.
Topping our situation off is the fact that we also still owe Chris Chiu, the former People’s Books proprietor, almost $16,000 in revenue made from stock sold on consignment. It has only been through Chris’s generosity and patience that we have been able to exist as long as we have.
It is clear that we need to have a larger discussion with our community and allies regarding the future of our business. At the March 1st Special General Membership Meeting, we will present a number of scenarios for moving forward. We hope to have the details of these plans to you soon. These possibilities come to you two months prior to our General Membership Meeting and may need to be voted on then.
A reminder email will be sent in the days leading up to the meeting. Included in the email will be a meeting agenda, FAQ, and possible solutions. By-laws and board minutes are available upon request. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to see them.
The People’s Books Board urges all PBC members, volunteers, customers, friends, and allies to attend the March 1st meeting. The future of our cooperative depends on your participation. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, please consider filling out our community survey at bit.ly/pbcsurvey2015. Thank you for your continued support.
People’s Books Cooperative Board of Directors