Sales at general retailers in January exceeded forecasts. At stores open at least a year, sales rose 4.2% compared to January 2010, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters of 28 retailers. The gain occurred despite bad weather, particularly in the Northeast and Southeast, that many companies said affected sales.
Wall Street analysts and research companies were encouraged but noted deep discounting by some retailers. Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics told the New York Times, "The fact that it was not a downer is encouraging, but it does not mean it could be a gangbuster year by any means."
The Wall Street Journal wrote worriedly about challenges ahead. Its scenario for 2011: "Skyrocketing raw-materials prices crimp profit margins while higher prices for food and gasoline siphon off discretionary dollars and can sap consumer confidence."
Department store sales rose 2%, helped, the Times said, because many of the stores are "attracting younger consumers through social media promotions and by stocking better brands." Nordstrom comp-store sales rose 4.8% and Sakes rose 4.8%.
Discount chains rose 5.2%, led by Costco, which showed a 9% same-store sales rise.
H.B. Fenn, Canada's largest book distributor and owner since 2004 of Key Porter, has filed for bankruptcy, Quill & Quire reported. In its filing, the company said that it has "encountered significant financial challenges due to the loss of distribution lines, shrinking margins and the significant shift to e-books, all of which have significantly reduced the Company's revenues."
The company distributed some 90 publishers and imprints. Quill & Quire said that H.B. Fenn "suffered a major setback two years ago when its largest sales and distribution client, Hachette Book Group, opened a Toronto publicity and marketing office and took over sales for major national accounts including Indigo, Costco, and wholesalers North 49 and BookExpress. (H.B. Fenn continued to handle sales for Hachette’s independent and library accounts.) Hachette also moved fulfillment from Canada to its Indiana warehouse."
In January, Key Porter Books ceased publishing (Shelf Awareness, January 7, 2011)
Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshops, Naperville and Downers Grove, Ill., and Steve Bercu of Bookpeople, Austin, Texas, have been nominated to be president and vice-president/secretary, respectively, of the American Booksellers Association for a term beginning at the annual meeting at BEA in New York in May, Bookselling This Week reported.
The board also nominated John Evans of DIESEL Bookstores in Malibu, Brentwood and Oakland, Calif., and Matt Norcross of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petosky, Mich., to join the board, serving three-year terms. It nominated Ken White of San Francisco State University Bookstore in San Francisco, Calif., for a second three-year term. In June 2012, ABA president Michael Tucker of Books Inc. in California and Dan Chartrand of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., will leave the board.
ABA members will vote on nominations and others may be nominated by members. But based on results going back several decades, the nominations will be approved by ABA members. So we offer tentative congratulations to all the nominated board members!
After "40 years really, really good years," as co-owner Kelly Treiber put it, the Muses Bookstore, Morganton, N.C., plans to close in March, according to the News Herald. Treiber and co-owner Shirley Sprinkle attributed the closing to several factors, most importantly "the growing popularity of e-readers." Other factors included online retailers; big box stores; and the financial crisis in 2008, when the store's business with schools declined.
Sprinkle said her favorite experience was the Harry Potter phenomenon.
Here's a bookstore we're ready to visit today: Battery Park Book Exchange, Asheville, N.C., which recently moved into "a labyrinthine place, straight out of an Omar Khayyam fantasy," as Mountain Express described it. "The floors are covered in oriental carpets, the walls drenched in rich, warm colors. Mazes of tall bookshelves, filled with volumes on every subject, frame tiny lamp-lit coves, perfect for hiding away with a glass of wine and a rare find."
Besides the 60,000 used books, there's a wine bar and coffee bar--awaiting an espresso machine. The store is owned by Thomas Wright. Manager Emily Krainik said that the oddly configured space is "very conducive to a bookstore, but not conducive to a lot of other things."
Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., has said it has "five months to turn our sales around or else we're out of business September 1," when the store's lease is up. According to the Riverfront Times, owner Kelly von Plonski asked for a rent reduction but did not succeed. She has also considered relocating but hasn't found a suitable site with lower rents. The store has started a survey of customers that can be seen on its Facebook page.
Cool idea of a cold, snowy winter: to celebrate the spirit of Snow Play by Birgitta Ralston, its publisher, Artisan Books, is sponsoring a Bookstore Snowfall Totals Contest. The store that claims the most snowfall between last December 1 and February 18 wins a pizza and beer party.
The invitation reads in part: "What bookstore can claim the largest snowfall this season? Maria's Bookshop in Durango? Iconoclast Books in Ketchum? Fact & Fiction in Missoula? Talking Leaves in Buffalo? Or Books & Books in Coral Gables?"
Coral Gables? Well, maybe if Mitchell Kaplan can count the Westhampton Beach, N.Y., store.
E-mail snowflake totals and meteorological proof to Craig Popelars at email@example.com by February 28.
The bookstore of the week of the Jacket Copy blog on the Los Angeles Times site is Book'em Mysteries, South Pasadena, Calif., which has been owned by Mary Riley and Barry Martin for more than 20 years. The pair wanted to "retire into something," Riley said, and considered opening a restaurant and a clothing shop before settling on Book'em. The store is more for readers than collectors.
In two decades, Book'em Mysteries' neighborhood has changed from "a quiet street of antiques shops to a neighborhood that bustles with people drawn to the Gold Line metro stop, the new cupcake shop, the Mix n Munch Cereal and Grilled Cheese Cafe and a weekly farmers market."
The Bristol Patch profiled Sue Woodman, who in 2005 left a 30-year career in the tech business to buy A Novel Idea in Bristol, R.I.
"People have this idea that when you own a bookstore, you get to sit around and read all day," Woodman said. "It couldn't be further from the truth. I work just as harder now as I did then. It's just a different type of work, and more importantly, work that I like to do."
Woodman needed a little time to adapt to life outside the corporate world: her first few months at A Novel Idea, she wore business suits. Then she had a novel idea: she didn't have to dress up everyday anymore.
An amusing unofficial companion title to Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown, which appears on Tuesday from Sentinel, is Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld, compiled and edited by Hart Seely, which originally appeared in 2003 and is being reissued Tuesday by Free Press. The hardcover, which was originally $12.99, is now priced at $9.99, and the e-book version is $8.99.
One example of the former Secretary of Defense's unintentional poetry, from a verbatim transcript of a 2002 Pentagon press briefing, that is echoed in the title of his memoir:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
Warren Cassell, retired owner of Just Books in Greenwich, Conn., recently turned 80 but still can't stay away from the book business. He has become heavily involved in a non-partisan, volunteer organization, Operationpaperback.org. This group is dedicated to providing gently used paperbacks at no cost to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Operation Paperback is providing reading material for stateside families of troops deployed overseas as well as to VA hospitals. Cassell said that a huge challenge for the organization is in the area of children's books donations. "We have already sent free books to over 900 families and we still have another 300 on a waiting list." Children's books for all ages, paper or cloth in good or new condition would be welcome from booksellers, publishers, packagers and wholesalers. Their donations would be shipped to one destination and operationpaperback.org volunteers would then send the books to individual families requesting them. For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book trailer of the day: Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction that Changed America by Les Standiford and Joe Matthews (Ecco), which will appear March 1.
Obituary note: Writer and publisher Donald Carroll, who "will be
best remembered for introducing the Liverpool poets Roger McGough, Brian
Patten and Adrian Henri to the world; for persuading Quentin Crisp to
write The Naked Civil Servant (1968); and for being very funny," has died, the Guardian reported. He was 70.
"Did Charles Dickens like jam, Dad?" Buzzfeed featured a video exploring the funny, if unlikely, potential for getting kids to read the classics with tasty editions like Dickens' Fruit Corners. It's a book... and it's jam.
If you've been waiting for a "sofa equipped with bookshelf,"
then French-Moroccan designer Younes Duret has created just the piece
for you. Modern Residential Design featured the Ransa, which "has a
vault that can be made as a place to put books or magazines."