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Used book sale nets Rotary more than $25,000

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 09:21 -- Chris Cooke
woman with a copy of First Monday magazine

“Books feel good, smell good and never let you down,” says Stephanie Webb of Kipling Street in Sarnia. The 32-year mother of three from Manitoba attended the 15th annual used book sale at the Bayside Centre downtown last month.

Webb was one of hundreds of people who showed up to get their hands on 38,000 books the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland had for sale.

“There aren’t any buttons to push or charging to do or devices that freeze,” she told First Monday. “I’m kind of amazed at the selection and great authors.”

After 15 years the three-day event on the second weekend in January has become a destination. People were lined down the main concourse waiting to get in on the first day and Rotarians were thrilled, especially chairperson Camilla McGill and her team of volunteers. “I had hoped we would get over $20,000.00,” she explained in an update to Rotarians, “but never expected we would reach this level.”

This level turned out to be nearly $28,000.00 with most of it profit. McGill says she was shocked when the first day total topped $17,000.00, beating last year’s three-day total.

McGill says word got out among high volume booksellers that the Rotary sale had popular authors among its collections, which created a lot of buzz and traffic the first day. She also credits a cohesive marketing strategy coordinated by Rotarian Janice McSwain. Emphasis was placed on newspapers, billboards, posters and radio to get the word out.

Stories about the book sale appeared in The Observer and Sarnia Journal, along with paid advertisements and Blackburn Radio provided a remote.

“Print media was the main driver on the first day of the sale,” says McGill. On line and social media carried the rest of the weekend.

McGill attributes much of the success on being organized. Seven or eight people spent hours sorting books every week for most of last year. Rotarians John Girard and Scott McKelvie oversaw the labour of moving books and setting up tables.

“So many people did so much work behind the scenes,” says McGill. She estimates expenses at about $2,500.00, leaving the Bluewaterland Club with a profit of more than $25,000.00.

Which provides McGill with a future problem. “We are going to have to be better organized, expand popular authors and market more”.

“How will we top this next year?” she asks.

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