Black Friday sales were up only slightly and shoppers stuck to shopping lists, which consisted of many heavily discounted items, according to initial sales data and anecdotal evidence. Once again electronics were likely the most popular category. In addition, more consumers bought online, accelerating the trend of the past few years. Today, Cyber Monday, is expected to be busier than last year.
Some 195 million people visited stores and websites over the long weekend, compared to 172 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation (via the New York Times). Average spending over the weekend fell to $343.31 a person, from $372.57 a year ago, while total spending was $41.2 billion, almost the same as last year.
In the ether world the news was more positive: "the average amount online shoppers spent on Black Friday rose 35% as shoppers spent roughly $170.19 an order--up from $126.04 last year," Coremetrics (via the Wall Street Journal) said. The company also indicated that shoppers bought more items with each purchase.
Although Borders U.K. administrators say they "continue to seek a purchaser for all or some of the company's stores," a closing sale for all 36 Borders and nine Books Etc. stores in the U.K. began on Saturday, according to the Bookseller. (The story is followed by a long series of sad, angry, unbelieving and poignant comments by former and current employees.)
Stores are starting with a 20% discount on all sales. The Starbucks in at least one Borders is accepting only cash. The Bookseller said that publishers "have limited their exposure" to the company, in some cases demanding COD terms. Several U.K. publishers said sales with Borders had dropped substantially already--for one, down 61% this year and for another down 50% in three years.
The British Borders operations were sold by Borders Group two years ago. Borders U.K. was bought in July by private equity firm Valco Capital Partners and some members of Borders management.
The fortunes of Borders stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore appear markedly different.
REDgroup, the company that runs Borders, Angus & Robertson, Whitcoulls and several related businesses, is considering an initial public offering in the first half of next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. REDgroup is owned by Pacific Equity Partners, the private equity firm that bought the Borders stores two years ago.
Out Word Bound Book Store
, the only gay and lesbian bookstore in Indianapolis, Ind., is closing after Christmas, the Indianapolis Star
"It has been a good run," owners Mary Byrne and Tammara Tracy, both of whom have day jobs, wrote in an e-mail to customers last week.
Founded in 1998, the store held many events. Its "Harry Potter," as Tracy put it, was the midnight party when the video of Brokeback Mountain was released in 2005. The store rented a horse, a sheep and a cowboy as props for the party.
Barnes & Noble begins shipping its Nook e-reader today but won't have any for sale or for demos in stores until next Monday, December 7, the Wall Street Journal reported. Some units originally designated to go to stores are going to people who ordered them before November 20. Demand for the Nook has been higher than the supplier's capabilities.
The Los Angeles Times
tells the "long story with plenty of villains" of Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle, Wash., which will have to close or move when its lease runs out January 31 (Shelf Awareness
, October 19, 2009).
Owner Peter Aaron told the paper that the store's location is "the driving factor" behind its sales slump. ("It's been a precarious existence the last four or five years.") "Between the lack of parking, the adverse effect of sporting events... and the perception on the part of many people that this is not a desirable or safe area of the city to venture into, especially at night, it's really been a huge inhibitor of our business."
With Borough president Marty Markowitz presiding, the launch of Shop Brooklyn was held last week outside Greenlight Bookstore, newly opened by Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting in the Fort Greene area. Watch Bagnulo's concise argument for the benefits of shopping local and catch a few glimpses of the beautiful store in the New York 1 report on Shop Brooklyn.
Speaking of Brooklyn...
Cool T's of the Day. Novel-T, Brooklyn, N.Y., has introduced a line of T-shirts that let booklovers "wear your read"--authors and characters. The first "team" consists of Whitman, Thoreau, Poe, Ahab, (Moby) Dick, Bartleby, Prynne, Sawyer and Finn. Each shirt includes the author's or character's name and a number on the back and a small related logo on the front--"A" for Hester Prynne and a "C" for Ahab. [Editor's Note: A+ for cleverness.]
Novel-T donates $1 from the sale of each shirt to Dave Eggers's 826NYC project to help kids work on their writing skills--a way, Novel-T said, "to make sure there will be new names to put on these shirts a generation from now."
The jersey-style T-shirts retail for $24.95 and are available at some bookstores in Brooklyn and at the New Museum in Manhattan and can be ordered online. Other booksellers are encouraged to contact the company for distribution information.
Apparently Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., did not introduce "possibly the first-ever independent bookstore jingle" (Shelf Awareness, November 25, 2009). Edward McKay Used Books & More, which has four stores in N.C., has its own song. Sing along here.
We've always known that our friends at Unshelved have all the answers, but now it's official: they've launched Unshelved Answers, where librarians, booksellers and others can share "expertise about libraries and everything in them: reference resources, reader's advisory, customer service, cataloging, administration, or anything else."
Unshelved Answers allows for grading of questions and answers "so that you can quickly and easily solve your problem and help others solve theirs. Every time your work is voted up you gain more reputation, which unlocks more functionality of the site for you. Eventually our most prized contributors become de-facto moderators. The site is really run by you, for you."
Questions? Go to Unshelved Answers.
Since a week ago Friday when Oprah Winfrey announced that she would end her talk show in 2011, Conan O'Brien has been offering himself up as "America's new Oprah." In Oprah Book Club style, the Tonight Show host has been recommending things, so far all non-books. Last week, he plumped for Extraordinary Chickens, an Abrams calendar, which quickly hopped to No. 9 on the Amazon calendar list.
The New Zealand Book Council offers a wonderful depiction of how reading can open the mind to new worlds. See it on YouTube.
What to do with those lovely red phone booths that dot the landscape in the U.K. but have become increasingly irrelevant in this cell phone age?
BT has been selling hundreds of phone booths for token amounts. In one village, the phone box has been recycled into a popular lending library stocking some 100 books as well as DVDs and CDs, according to the BBC. Residents can leave and take books as they wish 24 hours a day.
Show your support for books on Twitter: add a "Books Are Great Gifts" twibbon to your profile pic.
Minnesota Public Radio
interviewed Susie Fruncillo of Lake Country Booksellers, White Bear
Lake, Minn., and Chris Livingston of the Book Shelf, Winona, Minn.,
about the current state of the industry and how indie booksellers are
dealing with the book price wars.
Boing Boing's Gift Guide featured 2009's fiction and nonfiction picks.
Waiting for the National Book Award bump. USA Today reported that the paperback edition of Colum McCann's NBA-winning novel, Let the Great World Spin,
"has been moved up from late spring 2010 to December 4, with a first
printing of 100,000 copies. There are 50,000 copies in print of the
hardcover, which was widely praised by critics but was not a best
seller. The non-fiction winner, T.J. Stiles' bio of Cornelius
Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon, also is going back to press for 30,000 more hardcover copies."