A Holiday Preparations Checklist

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Here is BTW’s annual holiday preparations checklist, offering reminders that we hope will help smooth day-to-day operations at your store during the upcoming season.

Take advantage of a range of special offers from a variety of publishers in support of Indies First

  • Review the robust list of Indies First publisher specials to find favorite hand-sells, bestsellers, and classic reads and place orders for Indies First on Small Business Saturday (November 25) and the winter holidays.
  • Start promoting the #shopindiesfirstsweepstakes. Between November 15 and November 26, Twitter and Instagram users who tag a U.S. independent bookstore and use the hashtag #shopindiesfirstsweepstakes will be entered to win $1,000 worth of books from Penguin Random House. 
  • Sign up for Libro.fm, which partners with ABA to give member stores the ability to sell digital audiobooks through a co-branded storefront. On November 25, Libro.fm is offering customers a 50 percent discount on select audiobooks; digital audiobook gifting is now also available.

Let it snow! We've got books! -SnowmanSpruce up the store and increase merchandising efforts

  • When stocking the shelves, take advantage of publishers’ rapid replenishment programs available through the holiday season and, in some cases, beyond. Publishers that have announced such programs include Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and HarperCollins. In addition, Ingram and Baker & Taylor are offering free freight options.
  • Make the most of BookWeb’s Designs & Downloads DIY holiday design archive, as well as materials to promote Indies First and Small Business Saturday. Questions about DIY materials should be addressed to Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith.
  • Check out Rita Maggio of BookTowne in Manasquan, New Jersey, who was featured in a UPS video on “How One Bookstore Is Winning at Holiday Sales” and in an Inc. magazine article on preparing for the holiday selling season.
  • Ensure that frontline booksellers are familiar with titles that have strong store support.
  • Publicize your holiday hours well in advance and promote your ability to meet customers’ needs 24/7 via your store website. Include your web address on store signage and handouts, in e-newsletters and social media, in your telephone message, and on transaction receipts.
  • Make sure your after-hours telephone message is up to date and clearly states your store hours, web address, and whether the caller can leave a message.
  • Re-evaluate your store’s general appearance. Update and replace worn shelf-talkers, freshen window displays, create festive in-store displays, and decorate to convey the holiday spirit.
  • Pre-wrap bestselling titles and place a sticker on the outside with the title, ISBN, and price. Leave an unwrapped copy of the title at the top of the pile with a sign that says, “Wrapped and ready to go!”
  • Enlist volunteers to handle free holiday gift wrapping. It will save on staff time and will engender goodwill if you allow community or school groups to take donations. Also consider collecting donations for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), which has provided assistance for numerous booksellers this year following the devastating hurricane season and wildfires in California.
  • Make the most of your regional holiday catalog and the ABC Best Books for Young Readers catalog by displaying them prominently in-store, distributing them at store and community-wide events, inserting them into local newspapers, and providing them to local groups whose members you want to reach.
  • Spur gift card sales by placing display cards throughout the store.
  • Place related non-book items next to books to increase impulse buys.
  • Prominently post your return and exchange policies.
  • Check your store profile on Yelp, Google, and social media listings to make sure the information on your business and its services is complete and up to date.
  • Keep abreast of community holiday celebrations, such as tree lightings and holiday fairs, and coordinate marketing efforts and staffing accordingly.

Promote upcoming events in holiday inserts in local newspapers and create special shopping opportunities for loyal customers

  • Consider a customer appreciation night featuring holiday gift recommendations, refreshments, raffles, and prizes.
  • Promote your store as a venue for private, after-hours shopping parties to customers who are interested in inviting family and friends.
  • Hold a holiday pop-up shop in conjunction with other local merchants or organizations to reach new audiences.

Update your website, blog, and social media pages and use them to promote holiday offerings, special events, and your ability to sell e-books and audiobooks

  • Join the IndieCommerce team on November 9 for a webinar on “Preparing Your Website for the Holidays.”
  • On your IndieCommerce site be sure to:
    • Update store hours if they change for the holiday season.
    • Reinforce your store’s brand by featuring online content that complements in-store displays.
    • Consider offering free or reduced shipping as well as coupons for the holiday season.
    • Post your shipping policy, along with a delivery schedule: For example, “Usually Ships in 1–5 Days,” “On Our Shelves Now,” or “Order by [fill in the date] for Delivery by December 25.” Whatever language you choose, make sure customers know that books ordered after a certain date may not arrive in time for the holiday. And remember to check your orders page frequently for new orders.
    • Create a block to promote gift cards and gift certificates and set it to appear on your front page.
    • Advertise your site’s “wishlist” feature, which customers can use to share gift ideas with their family and friends.
    • Promote sales of e-books and audiobooks by curating content on your site; use one of your IndieCommerce Drupal content areas to create a selection of five to 10 titles that would have special appeal to your customers.
    • Add any key non-book inventory to your website.
    • Familiarize yourself with the website and prepare for questions by going through the online checkout process as a customer.
  • Sign up for Libro.fm’s Indie Partner Program, which allows ABA member stores to sell audiobooks through integration with IndieCommerce websites. Questions about signing up for Libro.fm can be directed to ABA IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies.
  • Be sure your website URL appears on store signage, cash register receipts, bags, bookmarks, printed and/or electronic newsletters, gift cards and gift certificates, store letterhead, business cards, and in all staff e-mail signatures.
  • Plan a schedule of e-newsletters featuring great book and non-book gift suggestions.

Be mindful of vendors’ holiday schedules

Display Indie Bestseller Lists and Indie Next List fliers and shelf-talkers

  • Assign a staff member to be on the lookout for the Red and White Boxes during these busy months, so the arrival of the latest Indie Next List fliers, other promotional materials, and last-minute special offers from ABA Publisher Partners don’t get lost among stock deliveries.
  • Download fliers and shelf-talkers featuring each month’s Indie Next Great Reads and Now in Paperback titles, which are available in an easily printable 8½" x 11" format on BookWeb.org. (These are great as extra bag-stuffers and for in-store displays.)
  • Assign a staff member to print out the national and/or regional Indie Bestseller Lists each Wednesday and replace the previous week’s lists. Save a space to display the 2017 Indie Bestsellers Highlights List (which will be published in BTW in early December).
  • Display Indie Bestseller Specialty Lists in appropriate sections of your store.

"Books: the perfect gift" gift certificate imageStock up on gift cards, gift certificates, and presenters

  • Make sure you have enough gift cards and/or gift certificates to meet holiday demand. Contact your supplier and reorder now as production times before the holidays may be lengthy.
  • Use ABA’s online order form to purchase “Books: The Perfect Gift” and “A Book Is a Present You Can Open Again and Again” paper gift certificates.
  • Visit BookWeb’s Designs & Downloads to download gift certificate designs featuring artwork from A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (Candlewick).

Check your inventory of business and office supplies

  • IndieBound natural Kraft recycled bags, with or without store customization; popular “Peace. Love. Books.” reusable bags; and specialized giftwrap for bookstores are available from W.G. Ellerkamp, Inc.
  • AAA Label is a source for stickers with promotional messages such as “Local Author” and “Autographed Copy.” When placing an order, be sure to mention that you are an ABA member.
  • Check other supplies, including acrylic holders for fliers and shelf-talkers, register tape, terminal paper, etc.

Remember to take care of your staff

  • Discuss expectations, especially relating to customer service, as well as potential scheduling conflicts and requests for time off.
  • Cross-train employees to handle a number of different tasks so a staff member is always ready to fill in wherever necessary.
  • Review your store’s refund policy and ensure staff are aware of any changes.
  • Make sure the schedule allows for all staff members to take their breaks, lunches, etc.
  • Plan small perks, such as food and drinks, for the busy days ahead to keep staff energized and happy. A non-greasy hand cream — especially for those who are doing a lot of gift wrapping — and hand sanitizer, along with lots of bottled water and chocolate, will be much appreciated.