Independent booksellers around the country celebrated the ninth annual Independents Week with sales and discounts, especially for customers who were willing to show their support for independent businesses on their shirts, bags, and receipts.
Although the event's name surprised some customers – “Yes, we can spell 'independence,'” tweeted Aaron's Books co-owner Sam Droke-Dickinson, after several people complained about the “misspelling” on the store's sign – it was also an opportunity for independent businesses of all kinds to work together to reach the same customers.
Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest, Illinois, showed off its staff's creativity. “We always have window displays like that,” said bookseller Maxwell Gregory. “We celebrated being an independent bookstore that's still open.”
In Oconto, Wisconsin, BayShore Books worked with neighboring businesses on both cross-promotions and discounts. “We have a front display with information about other participating businesses and books that tie in. For instance, we have The Perfect Wisconsin Lawn displayed with the address and phone number of Lawn Mower Layne, a local business that repairs small motors,” said owner Cathy Allard. Bayshore's customers also got five percent off their purchases for each receipt they brought in from another local store. Customers who brought in 10 receipts saved 50 percent at BayShore.
Some stores offered discounts to customers who came in wearing a show of support. At The Open Book in Westhampton Beach, New York, customers wearing the store's T-shirts got 20 percent off their purchases. At Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, the discount was 17 percent, in honor of the store's 17th year in business.
Skylight Books in Los Angeles offered customers 20 percent off the purchase of two or more books, and also extended the discount to sales from the store website. “We passed out a coupon with each qualifying purchase,” said bookseller Emily Pullen. “It said 'Shop Indie Online: Get 20 percent off your web order when you enter this code in the comments field.' It seemed like a lot of people didn't realize that they could order online and pick up books in the store. This coupon not only told them they could do it, it gave them an incentive to try it out.”
Independents Week, sponsored by the American Independent Business Alliance, is intended to promote a wide range of local businesses. None of Skylight's neighbors had Independents Week plans, though, so the store came up with its own community-wide promotion: “We made a flier of our favorite local businesses, a list of staff picks, if you will,” said Pullen. “We tried to think of types of stores where consumers' mental default is a chain, and then we came up with alternatives – hardware stores, grocery stores, clothing stores, coffee shops, etc. We had the fliers around the store for people to pick up, and we passed them out with purchases.”
BayShore's Allard has seen a slow increase in participation among her fellow business owners. “The first year I was the only business doing the promotion, but more businesses are joining in every year,” she said. “The Chamber [of Commerce] talked to me about it this year and would like to promote it next year. They said they didn't want to steal my idea. I said steal away! The objective is to promote all of our local businesses, not for me to be in the spotlight.”