Thursday, October 29, 2009

Buy now, get 50% off later

The Paradies Shops, an Atlanta-based bookseller that operates more than 500 stores in over 70 airports and hotels across the U.S. and Canada, is well known for its Read & Return Book Program. First introduced in 2003, the program allows travelers to buy a book and then return it within six months to receive 50% of the purchase price back. Books that are returned in good condition are then resold at half price, and those that aren't are donated to a local charity.

Curious about how the program is doing during a time where many cash-strapped shoppers are looking for ways to save, I checked in with Bobbi Passavanti, managing director of marketing and communications for The Paradies Shops -- and her answer was surprising:

"The program remains as strong as ever, but we actually don't measure the results," Passavanti told me. "Our book business has steadily increased about 20% over the years, but we're not as focused on the Read & Return program's numbers -- we just know it's successful by seeing how many loyal returning customers it brings in."

It's hard to believe that the company doesn't officially monitor the program's results, but even still, it's obvious it's working for them. "It's really grown over the past few years, mostly through word-of-mouth marketing," she said.

Passavanti said the program is especially popular among airport workers and flight crews, who have frequent access to its stores across the country. And when a customer purchases a book, the cashier either staples or tapes the receipt inside, along with a bookmark that lists all its locations.

How's that for smart marketing? Shoppers start thinking about when they can make a second trip to one of the company's stores even before they leave the one they're in.

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