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When you’d rather not knock heads

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Maybe you’d prefer not to compete, compete, compete. That’s what Alexandra McGilloway decided, so her business model is based on collaboration and complementary products rather than competition.

Primarily a bookseller, McGilloway’s East West Bookshop in Seattle helps guide people on their spiritual paths, wherever those paths may lead.

Balancing her inventory between books and gifts is one secret of McGilloway’s success. The markups on gifts are about 100 percent, compared with about 40 percent for books.

The other secret is not competing with “the killer Bs”: the Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon megastores that have cut independents in half over just a few years. McGilloway ran the numbers and decided to stay away from Internet sales. She figured that the costs—Web site, shipping and extra help—wouldn’t be worth it for a store that small.

The result: In 14 years, East West has become the largest spiritual bookstore in the Northwest. Last year, it took in $1.7 million, about 5 percent more than in 2003.

McGilloway is uniformly noncompetitive. She also tries to stay out of the hair of other independent spiritual bookstores in the region.

“We consciously try to have different kinds of things so we’re not competing with each other,” she says. “We give each other room to breathe.”

— Adapted from “In good spirits: East West Bookshop combines selling spiritual products with moneymaking sense,” Steve Wilhelm, Puget Sound Business Journal.

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