Friends and Colleagues in Bookselling,
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” I think you are feeling what I am feeling: cautiously optimistic — with the emphasis on optimistic, exhausted, frazzled, and fried — but jazzed to be in the thick of that time of year when being a bookseller is the most joyous. Phones ringing off the hook, handselling books with finesse and passion, and doling out customer service that surpasses anything our competition could ever dream of — this is what makes us the place of discovery for books and so much more.
Speaking of that time, one day stands out for virtually all of us as a good omen for a robust holiday season: Small Business Saturday (SBS). Wow! It was an amazing day for us at Anderson’s — up almost 20 percent over last year. We have heard similar stories from many of you across the membership: Thanksgiving weekend sales were up modestly for some and well over last year for others. So many customers who came in on Small Business Saturday expressed to me how much they love us and what we do for our community. I had one conversation, though, that really got my blood pressure spiked. In our kids’ section, a woman asked me if an autographed copy of Shannon Hale’s Palace of Stone was cheaper on Amazon! Another couple I had just helped, who were standing nearby, started to laugh at the absurdity of her question — but again, as all of us have done countless times, I gave our most impassioned explanation of the unique and essential role we play. I think she realized her question was a huge “duh” one —especially on SBS! And so it goes — our continuing education of the consumer.
Adding to that weekend’s excitement was Kobo and the $49.99 special offer. For ABA member stores selling Kobo eReaders, it was a brilliant way to get devices to first-timers who are ready to dive into digital reading for an excellent price. We sold quite a few over Black Friday and SBS and heard that a good number of stores sold out of Mini devices. Kobo placed full-page newspaper ads in several markets — and it showed in the resulting sales. We have to change the conversation from that other “K” device to the Kobo.
At Anderson’s, we have hosted two “Petting Zoo” events to promote and educate our customers about Kobo eReaders and eBooks. These were similar to the ones we did for Google eBooks — but the big difference is, we now have a device to “Show and Tell” and we raffled off a Mini at each event. We also hosted a Penguin Night and a Random House night with our three reps from each house, where, in addition to presenting customers with great reads for holiday giving, we talked about Kobo devices and eBooks.
“Thanks for Shopping Indie” was another success over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. For those of you who signed up for this program, I hope you saw the same interest as we have. At Anderson’s we have a table up front devoted to the adult selections and a display of the kids’ titles in the kids’ section. We are offering an additional discount on all of these titles through the end of the year.
For those of you attending Winter Institute 8 in Kansas City, I can’t encourage you enough to check out the vendors on the CAMEX show floor to get ideas to create unique gift items for your store and your community. One vendor that several of us on the ABA Board discovered at the show this year was a company called Kitty Keller Designs. They custom make and design beautiful cloisonné ornaments that retail for about $40. We have sold more than 200 custom Naperville Christmas ornaments, and our plan is to create a collectible ornament and others each year for our stores. We have also created and made locally: magnets, key chains, calendars, mugs, tiles, etc. that feature our community — all from ideas we picked up at the CAMEX show. So, I encourage you to make the most of the opportunity at Wi8 to spend time on the CAMEX trade floor and to take advantage of the special $100 rebate offer for placing an order of any size from an exhibiting vendor at the show.
I am always blown away by all of the creative and brilliant events and initiatives that all of you do this time of year and all year. Let’s keep on sharing those ideas with each other. Here are a few of what we are doing at Anderson’s this holiday season.
Author Elves: We are hosting on two Saturdays — the 15th and the 22nd — some of our favorite local authors who will take to the floor as booksellers to handsell their favorite books to read. Writers on reading!
“Find the Grinch and Grow Your Heart Three Sizes”: I approached Random House with an idea similar to that of “Find Waldo Local” to promote our IndieBound Naperville Independent Business Alliance. Random got the permission from the Seuss Estate to let us be the pilot program in the hope that it will be launched next year to the entire membership. So far it’s been fantastic, and we culminate our event with a Grinch party on the 28th. Kids and adults are finding the Grinch all over town and growing their hearts three Xs!
As many of you do every holiday season, we sponsor a Book Angel program that grows every year. Our tree is overloaded with children’s names from humanitarian services all over the Chicagoland area. Just added were 400 more children from an inner-city Chicago school that we got from the Kerry Wood Family Foundation, founded by the former Chicago Cubs pitcher. They are giving each child a new coat, a new toy, and we are adding a book. Anderson’s also collects tens of thousands of used books during this time of year through our Andrea’s Angel program to distribute to schools and children who are in desperate need of books.
Here’s a holiday toast to all of you and your families for a joy-filled holiday season. And another toast to a gangbuster December for business and spreading the love of books.