Find Waldo Local Puts the Spotlight on Independent Bookstores

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Find Waldo Local, the second annual month-long scavenger hunt sponsored by Candlewick Press and the American Booksellers Association, is aimed at bringing awareness to local businesses while celebrating the elusive picture book character and the longevity of the Where’s Waldo series. Less than two weeks into the hunt, indie bookstores across the country have been featured in their local media outlets; participating businesses are noticing an increase in customer traffic; and for the second week in a row Where's Waldo? titles have earned spots on the Children's Illustrated National Indie Bestsellers List.

Participating bookstores were charged with organizing the promotion and enlisting other indie businesses in their communities to join in the fun. Candlewick provided bookstores with a free kit containing Waldo standees and window clings for each participating business, as well as prizes for the Waldo seekers.

The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia, which had “great success with it last year,” expects Find Waldo Local to again draw a crowd, said manager Carrie Shearer. The town of Thomasville had 25 businesses participate last year and this year that number has grown by one. Media coverage has helped increase local awareness, said Shearer. Most recently, the bookstore was prominently featured in a video segment on WCTV.

Shearer said many of last year’s enthusiastic Waldo seekers have already returned to the store this month. “It’s really starting to pick up this week, and they’re having fun with it,” she said, adding that two young customers already completed the scavenger hunt.

Waldo-related activities in Bangor, Maine, have been reported by WABI, which featured Briar Patch Books’ marketing manager Gibran Graham on air.

Find Waldo Local “brings people into a lot of the different businesses downtown that they may not have gone into before or haven’t been into for a long time,” Graham told TV viewers, from inside the bookstore.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 1 Halley Pucker of Boswell Book Company was joined by Waldo on FOX6 WakeUp to invite community members to the store’s Find Waldo Local kickoff event that evening. Halley explained how the scavenger hunt works and showed the “passport” participants will have stamped to be eligible for prizes from participating businesses.

At The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont, the small village surrounding the store easily lends itself to this kind of activity, said bookseller Sandy First. “It’s nice to be able to just go from shop to shop,” she said. Shelburne News reported that 20 retail businesses in the village will be participating this year and details were provided for members of the community who wish to join the hunt.

Flying Pig, which is participating in Find Waldo Local for the second time, saw a bump in sales from the scavenger hunt, specifically in Waldo books, First said. “The kids love it. And the merchants were also very excited to see it back, because they noticed last year that it was very helpful to them.”

The Arizona Daily Star spoke to the owners and staff at many of the 26 participating Tucson businesses, including Trudy Mills, co-owner of Antigone Books, who organized the activity in her area.

There is no cost for community members to participate in the scavenger hunt, said Mills, “and, hopefully, they’ll see stores they like in the process.”