Cumberland County bookseller announces liquidation saleTed Canaday says Amazon, online shopping habits squelching industry
After two decades in the business, Cumberland County bookseller Ted Canaday is preparing to write his final chapter amid stiff competition from Amazon and other online retailers.
Canaday's Book Barn, in West Pennsboro Township, launched a liquidation sale on Tuesday, timed to coincide with Amazon Prime Day.
The irony is intentional. But Canaday said he arrived at the decision to close earlier this month, as a "precipitous decline in in-store customers over the past two years and the tightening margins associated with online sales" finally became unsustainable.
Canaday launched his business in Midtown Harrisburg in the early 2000s after 10 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. He relocated from the city to the 200-year-old West Pennsboro barn 10 years ago. The move brought seven times more square footage, and a vastly expanded collection.
He managed to adapt and survive through the 2008 recession, but it was other changes that began to erode the business.
In 2008, Amazon purchased Abebooks, the primary marketplace for antiquarian books such as those Canaday sells.
"This together with Amazon's aggressive move into the 'print-on-demand' market for out-of-copyright books, and subsequent changes in product placement on their website, decimated the out-of-print and antiquarian market," he said.
"Independent sellers were squeezed ever tighter with each new internal or systemic change to the Amazon selling platform."
In recent months, the barn might welcome a handful of shoppers each day, generating perhaps a hundred dollars in sales per week, Canaday explained. Online sales have been similarly anemic.
That isn't enough for Canaday to pay the mortgage and support his family of four.
So now he is beginning to mark down on his inventory of 100,000 books. Canaday hopes his announcement will generate sales, but he also hopes it will raise awareness of the trends affecting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in the age of Amazon.
All books will be discounted 50 percent through the end of July, and Canaday said he will mark them down more, as needed, until the stock is sold.
"Only a miraculous outpouring of good will in the form of book purchases could save the store, but perhaps those reading this will be reminded to patronize their local businesses before it is too late," he said.