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Book Trader/Tan America’s formula for success

Newton business thrives while major bookstores struggle

Book Trader/Tan America owner Cheryl Hansen has been in business for 13 years and credits her affordable prices along with tanning for her success.
Book Trader/Tan America owner Cheryl Hansen has been in business for 13 years and credits her affordable prices along with tanning for her success.

It is no secret that major bookstores all across the United States are struggling.

Despite this, Newton’s Book Trader/Tan America is thriving, thanks to its wide range of affordable products and services, which include tanning.

“This is my thirteenth year in business,” owner Cheryl Hansen said. “(I) rent the building.”

She said her first location only had two tanning beds, and the store was only half the size it is now. The opportunity to move to a larger location was too hard for her to pass it up.

The increased size has allowed her more products and expanded her the opportunity to increase profit as well.

“Now we have six beds, and, of course, a lot more books, CDs and DVDs,” Hansen said.

When asked the reasoning behind opening a used bookstore, Hansen said she realized that new books are becoming more expensive and it just seemed logical to open a used book store.

“Well the used book business is becoming even bigger because of the price of books,” Hansen said. “The store gets in 800 to 1,000 books a week — it’s (made up) of what people bring in, so the store changes daily. Tanning is seasonal; during on-season, we are busy. On-season for tanning is basically February through June. Other than that, the books carry the store year-round.”

Book Trader/Tan America’s trade-in program is popular among customers who enjoy trading old books for new ones, Hansen said.

“You can either buy everything that is marked outright or you can trade your merchandise for other (merchandise),” she said. “The difference is we are not a consignment — as soon as you bring in new books, you get a book credit.

“You can use that book credit to get other books, or you can come in and choose merchandise without bringing anything, whereas with half-price bookstores, you sell and you get what you can get,” Hansen added, explaining the added benefit of the book credit system.

“The book credit works well if you’re an avid reader because when you turn in your book credit, you play a fourth instead of full price,” she added.

The advantage of having a bookstore in addition to a tanning salon is that customers can read a book or watch the store’s TV while waiting.

“There are a lot of tanning customers that are book customers also,” Hansen said.

She said some of her clients often stock up on books when they leave for an extended period of time and said she has summer readers, which allows the store’s book flow to stay steady.

“We have a pretty good selection of kids books, westerns (and) mystery,” Hansen said. “We really hit all ages and gender.”

She said some of the most popular books are books written by James Patterson and “50 Shades of Grey.”

When it comes to inventory, Hansen said she is not in short supply.

“I try to keep up to five copies of each book for back stock so that I can refill the shelves,” she said. “It is just so ongoing, we get so many books in. If I have too many, they get thrown into the bargain book section, which are 50 cent books. Those are books that I have five or more copies of.”

“We have people who just shop the bargain section, we have people who pay full price and we have people who use book credits so there is a way to shop for everybody,” she added.

Book Trader/Tan America is located at 118 N. Second Ave. E. and offers various specials including $3 “Sunsational Fridays.”

Call the store at (641) 791-4024 for more information.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641)-792-3121 Ext. 425 or

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