Half Price Books heading to Oklahoma City

Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 7:00 am

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY - Texas-based used-book store chain Half Price Books will open its first Oklahoma store May 21.

The 9,800-square-foot store is set for a strip mall at NW 63rd Street and May Avenue.

The chain started in Dallas in 1972 and has stores in 15 states.

John Garrison, district manager for HPB, said the company adds about five new stores a year. The company has been focusing on filling in existing markets, but customer requests led to plans for the Oklahoma City store.

Kirk Thompson, public relations director for HPB, said Oklahoma was the top request for people contacting the company asking about new stores.

With the company's modest expansion and its policy to promote managers from within, the Oklahoma store was put on hold until recently when the company found the ideal candidate for store manager in Rachel Lehrberger, who is moving from Texas to manage the Oklahoma City store.

Garrison said the site of the store was chosen because of its proximity to the busy nearby intersection and a bigger building.

"We just loved the visibility," Garrison said. "We wanted this corner so badly we were willing to go bigger than we otherwise might have in a new market."

The stores range from about 8,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.

Each store sells used books and recorded materials for 50 percent of the original retail price, or often less. Garrison said about 60 percent of the store's stock will be used materials. Other items include things like bookmarks, novelty items, postcards and portable reading lights.

Customers are encouraged to bring books to sell. The store pays cash for used books and recorded materials like CDs and record albums. Customers who sell items are not required to make a purchase.

"We'd love it if they spend it here," Garrison said. "But they don't have to."

As economic conditions have driven many to tighten their purse strings, Garrison said, business has improved at HPB stores.

"When folks start to have to pinch pennies a little more, they definitely start to look at who can provide something they can afford," he said.

Thompson said company-wide sales are up 8 percent over the same time last year.

With the first Oklahoma store set to open next month, Garrison said, the company is considering other markets around the state, including Edmond and Tulsa.

"We're actively looking," he said. "We're just trying to find the right locations."

But not everyone is looking forward to the new store coming to town. It is about a mile from the Aladdin Book Shoppe at 5040 N. May Ave.

"It's right down the street from us, which is one concern," said Aladdin co-owner Paula Walker. "But we have a different niche. Our books are mainly out-of-print and rare."

Walker and her two partners have owned the used-book store for about four years. It was founded in 1930.

Books at Aladdin generally start at about $40 and go up to $2,000. Walker said they also keep a stock of lower-priced paperbacks.

Walker said she expects to see a dip in sales when the HPB store opens, but expects many to return to Aladdin for the personal service, selection and unique touches like their brass cash register from 1911.

Garrison said he wants to work in unity with used-book sellers and larger chains that sell new books, like nearby Barnes & Noble and Borders. He said the HPB stores are often situated near the larger booksellers to offer customers a variety of book-buying options and to refer customers back and forth.

"I love to be right next to a healthy Barnes & Noble or Borders," he said. "There's a real synergy there, that's helpful."

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