Half Price Books: A Tale of a Successful Small Online Business

Bookshelves at Half Price Book store – an example of a successful small online business

This week, we’re shining our successful online business spotlight on Endicia customer, Half Price Books. With 123 brick-and-mortar locations and a booming ecommerce website, you might not have guessed that founders Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson got their start in a converted laundromat in Dallas with just 2,000 of their own personal books.

After setting up shop, Half Price Books rapidly began opening new locations across the United States, and in 2007 the company added its extensive online bookstore to the mix. Although the company has grown drastically, Half Price Books has remained family-owned and is now under the leadership of Pat’s daughter, Sharon Anderson Wright.

We recently sat down with Kent Hedtke, online sales manager of Half Price Books, to chat about the company’s online business growth strategy and success over the years. Here’s what he had to say.

Endicia: We know that Half Price Books was started by Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson, and later taken over by Pat’s daughter, Sharon. With such tremendous growth, would you say it still feels like a family-run business?

Kent: Absolutely. Ken and Pat created the company with one goal in mind: to offer a great product at a great price. When Sharon took the reins, she made sure that Half Price Books kept its original philosophy. Even though we have 123 locations in 16 states, plus an online store, the company still stays committed to its values and the needs of our local communities. I think our personal, small business mindset and approachable service have been important for keeping our employees and customers happy.

Endicia: It’s fantastic that so little has changed in that sense. I see that the first Half Price Books store opened in 1972, and the business started to expand online in 2007. How long did it take the company to bring all of its locations online?

Kent: We started in 2007, but it wasn’t until last year that we finally brought all our locations online. I think we wanted to take it slow and test the waters, but we knew eventually we would want all of our stores and warehouses to be accessible online.

Endicia: Absolutely. So, have you seen noticeable growth since taking the business online?

Kent: Definitely. We quickly went from a small to a medium-sized business. The majority of our recent growth has been through our online sales, and there’s still so much potential there. We have continued to expand year over year, with 2.6 million packages shipped just in the last 12 months.

It’s hard to go wrong offering your customers more accessibility to your company. Especially in this day and age, customers want items as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Endicia: We couldn’t agree more! And we’re glad to hear that Endicia has helped you to keep up with your booming success. With 123 locations and an online store, you must really have your hands full. Any tips that you’ve found helpful when it comes to your shipping strategy?

Kent: I think one thing that has helped us keep up with our growth is having a streamlined fulfillment process in place via Endicia and Monsoon Commerce. We have all of our shipping running into one combined Endicia account, and then Monsoon Commerce provides us with everything from inventory to order management. Since both companies know each other’s products so well, the customer service is excellent and has made it easy for us to jump in size.

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