BIRMINGHAM – Books-A-Million Inc., the second largest bookseller in the United States, was honored today by the Alabama Retail Association as an Alabama Centennial Retailer, a retailer with 100 or more years in business in Alabama.
The Books-A-Million story is a “classic American success story” and “a fascinating family story,” says its current president and chief executive officer, Terry Finley.
Books-A-Million’s roots go back to 1917, when 14-year-old Clyde W. Anderson built a newsstand out of discarded piano crates to sell hometown newspapers to the workmen who came to Florence to build what is now the Wilson Dam.
Anderson went on to manage three newsstands, establish a wholesale magazine business and open an indoor bookstore that sold newspapers, magazines, books, tobacco and fireworks, laying the groundwork for the current Anderson Companies.
Charles C. Anderson, the founder’s son, expanded the business in the 1950s, starting with the first Anderson’s Bookland in Florence, growing to 50 stores in malls throughout the Southeast by the 1980s. In 1988, the Andersons bought Gateway Books, doubling the size of Bookland. They then moved their corporate headquarters to Birmingham, where it remains today.
Also in 1988, the company opened the first book superstore in Huntsville led by the founder’s grandson, Clyde B. Anderson. A second superstore soon opened with 30,000 square feet of selling space down the street under the name Books-A-Million Inc. By 1992, Bookland changed its name to Books-A-Million.
Books-A-Million, an Alabama Retail Association member since 1984, now operates more than 250 stores, 20 of them in Alabama. The company employs more than 5,400 with more than 1,000 in Alabama. Finley and Books-A-Million earned an Alabama Retailer of the Year Award in 2015.
“We find ourselves today in a very different place than where we were 30 years ago, but the book business is back,” Finley said. “Booksellers are thriving, both the independents and the chains.”
In addition to the Books-A-Million stores that include Joe Muggs® Cafès, the private company includes a book wholesale and distribution subsidiary, Florence-based American Wholesale Book Co.; an e-commerce division operating as booksamillion.com; and a Nashville-based internet development and services company, NetCentral. Its retailing concept 2nd and Charles focuses on the buy-sell-trade marketplace for books, media and electronics and represents 10 percent of the company’s store count. BAM also has a Electronic Book Machine (EBM), a book printing robot, in two stores.
Books-A-Million was honored at the 2017 Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham. The business received a bronze plaque and a framed certificate.
“For a business to survive the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement,” said ARA President Rick Brown. “It is fitting to celebrate the enduring first-century contributions Books-A-Million has made to the state of Alabama and all of the communities it serves.”
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.