Santa's Perfect Helper -- Book Sense Gift Certificates Fly In and Out of Stores

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Nationwide, booksellers agreed that, despite wide variations in sales figures, gift certificates were as hot this holiday season as a roaring chimney fire. The certificates helped boost sales in December and continue to bring customers back into stores to redeem them. Many booksellers noted that their customers were particularly pleased to learn that Book Sense gift certificates were redeemable around the country. Several stores reported that, for the first time, only Book Sense certificates were offered, giving customers tremendous flexibility for out-of-town gift giving.

Nationally, this holiday season sales of gift certificates rose 65 percent over 2001, with sales approaching $250 million, as reported by the Boston Globe.

At World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield, Massachusetts, just under 800 Book Sense certificates sold between November 29 and December 31, totaling about $15,000. Fran Gardner, the store's manager, told BTW that the average certificate amount was $30, but "they ranged from $5 on. I saw some for one hundred dollars go by." Most of the certificates sold are redeemed in the 34-year-old store, "but people really like the idea that they could take them to other places, when we explained the program," said Gardner.

Book buyer Shilough Hopwood of the Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, agreed that the Book Sense certificates were "flying out of the store." Hopwood told BTW that "we had calls from people who bought gift certificates over the phone for relatives living in this area. All customers were very impressed when we told them that they could find Book Sense stores anywhere and use the certificates." At 8,000-square-feet, Doylestown Bookshop is the largest independent around. "[The Book Sense program] made us seem even bigger and more professional," Hopwood said.

Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, switched to a single store gift certificate -- the Book Sense certificate -- on December 1. According to co-owner Dee Robinson, about 1,500 were sold in December for a cash total of about $34,000. Strong sales have continued into January. Robinson told BTW, "People didn't mind the change. Although most were buying them to use in our store, some specifically requested 'the one that can be used in other places.' There's much more awareness about the Book Sense program -- we promote it all over."

For more information on Book Sense gift certificates, click here or contact Jill Perlstein at (800) 637-0037, ext. 1283, or via e-mail at jill@bookweb.org. To order gift certificates, e-mail info@bookweb.org or call (800) 637-0037, ext. 1292 or 1293. -- Nomi Schwartz