Singing the Praises of Find Waldo Local

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Though the month-long “Find Waldo Local” campaign drew to a close last week, booksellers are still buzzing about the overwhelming response from their communities. The scavenger-hunt style promotion was introduced by Candlewick Press as a way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic children’s series, as well as to spur local shopping. Throughout the month, the campaign’s success has been measured by booksellers’ feedback, all of which was extremely positive, said Elise Supovitz, director of field sales at Candlewick.

“Over the past week, I’ve received dozens of over-the-moon e-mails from booksellers singing the praises of Find Waldo Local,” she said. “Virtually every bookseller has asked the same question: ‘Can we do it again next year?’ The answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ Candlewick will definitely roll out a similar event in 2013 with the goal of expanding upon the amazing reach this year of 250 cities and more than 5,000 participating indie businesses.”

The campaign’s effects rippled throughout Athens, Georgia, said Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop.

Avid Bookshop's in-store Waldo poses with young customers.

“In terms of the effect it had on other businesses, we were blown away!” she said. “So many participating businesses said they had higher-than-usual summer traffic as a result of the scavenger hunt, and a good portion of the hunters said they had never been in many of the businesses before the “Where’s Waldo?” search.

“We had a significant number of parents and caregivers who thanked us for organizing the promotion, saying it was a great way to get the kids out of the house for an activity everyone could enjoy.”

In Vancouver, Washington, “Buy Vancouver,” a campaign to emphasize the importance of local spending, launched with a boost from Find Waldo Local. July’s Waldo events tied into the campaign perfectly, by fostering a further understanding of the effects of shopping local and helping residents discover uncharted parts of town. “‘Buy Vancouver’ is off and growing,” said Becky Milner, owner of Vancouver’s Vintage Books, who said she has Candlewick to thank for its success.

Vintage Books was visited by several young Waldos and Wendas.

“We can’t say enough good things about Candlewick Press and their Where’s Waldo program,” she added. “Twenty-one local businesses participated in Where’s Waldo in Vancouver, and we were sprawled across the city — but that didn’t stop the Waldo seekers. The enthusiasm was so much more than we hoped for, both from families and merchants, several of whom have asked if we can do it again next year.”

The store has seen an upsurge in sales, especially in Waldo books, which Milner credits to adult nostalgia as much as young readers.

“July was perfect timing,” said Milner. “This was a great project for many families. Again, we’d say a huge ‘Thanks!’ to Candlewick.”

Local shops in Alexandria, Virginia, were bustling with activity, despite the July heat, said Ellen Klein, co-owner of Hooray for Books!

“Find Waldo Local” definitely boosted in-store traffic for the businesses that participated with us; one shop owner was happily surprised that people came in every single day, despite July temperatures in the 90s and higher. Everyone I’ve spoken to wants to do it again next year — and make it an even larger event.

“The folks who searched for Waldo were happy and excited. It was just as much fun for residents as for tourists, and many said they bought something at nearly every place they went. Our in-store sales were up more than 27 percent from last July.”

Hundreds of Waldo fans filled the streets and stores in the Fairhaven District of Bellingham, Washington, home to Village Books.

Village Books' Waldo spent some time behind the counter.

“Village Books had a great time hosting ‘Find Waldo in Fairhaven’, and we received so much positive response from businesses and participants,” said Christina Claasen, the store’s events coordinator.

More than 225 people managed to collect 16 or more Waldo cards to enter in the prize drawings, she said, adding that hundreds more participated in finding at least a few cards. Businesses said that the event helped boost their summer sales, giving parents time to shop while kids searched.

“Village Books saw an increase in traffic and sales too,” said Claasen. “Our store is three levels and it was the biggest challenge to find Waldo in our store, but often the most rewarding.” The store sold 44 Where’s Waldo? books in the month of July, which is 40 more than the amount sold in July of last year.

The campaign was extremely successful in familiarizing residents with stores they otherwise wouldn’t have known about, said Claasen, adding, “One customer said, ‘I didn’t realize how much you could shop for in Fairhaven!’”