John Mutter and Edward Nawotka report for PW Daily for Booksellers on cautious optimism among booksellers for the holiday season:
- The sagging stock market, rising unemployment, bellicose talk in Washington and a dragging economy continue to make many Wall Street analysts and general retailers pessimistic about the holiday season. Booksellers seem more positive, although they have some concerns, and a few are taking a very cautious approach to the season.
A major worry expressed recently by several booksellers is that besides economic disruptions that could hurt sales, war with Iraq could lead to the kind of consumer paralysis that occurred during the legal battles following the 2000 election and the Gulf War in 1991. Particularly during the post-election debacle, many bookstore customers were preoccupied with the news and apparently read much less than usual. Moreover, book publicity on TV, radio and elsewhere was shunted aside, making the problem worse.
One bookseller, overheard at this past weekend’s Great Lakes Bookseller’s Association meeting, said, “You can expect people to be watching CNN for six weeks–two weeks to figure out what’s going on, two weeks to watch the war and another two weeks for the aftermath. And all during the holidays.”
So far, however, many independents report, sales have been relatively normal. For example, at Borealis Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y., near Cornell University, business has been “more or less as usual,” with a typical late-September dip as “students realize they can’t shop their way through school,” according to owner Ellen Kline. Business around Thanksgiving often picks up but the store tries to “even out monthly sales as much as possible so that we don’t depend on it, as some stores do, for an overwhelming percentage of annual sales.”
Still, Kline is “reasonably optimistic” about this holiday season because “typically book sales are good when the economy’s down.”
Likewise, Lesley Kleiser of Montgomery Book Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, calls herself “cautiously optimistic” because “in these uncertain times, shoppers may be looking for gifts that have more meaning and substance–and books certainly fit that category.”
“Despite what I see on the news every morning, I’m optimistic,” said Liz Murphy of The Learned Owl Bookstore [hey, I’ve been there] in Hudson, Ohio., whose store is already “significantly busier…and people are already asking for Christmas giftwrapping.”
Murphy is trying to organize a fall/holiday advertising campaign supported by local merchants to promote downtown. “The theme will be ‘Come to Hudson, where it’s not just shopping…it’s an experience,'” she said. “Our long-term theme is “Hudson…where everything you want isn’t hard to find at all.”