Retail sales for March were surprisingly solid, despite bad weather in many areas of the country, rising gas prices and a late Easter this year. The Wall Street Journal noted that the majority of retail chains "reported decent gains for the month at stores open a year or more," with sales at general retailers rising 1.7% in March, as tracked by Thomson Reuters. Analysts had predicted a 0.7% gain.
"I was worried about the fragile progress we have seen so far on the part of retailers, which is really a reflection of consumers," said Barbara Kahn, director of the Jay Baker Retailing Center at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "But March, even though a complicated month, does suggest more progress on the road to recovery."
The National Retail Federation expects consumers "to be out in force heading toward Easter," the Journal reported. U.S. retail spending on Easter-related merchandise is projected to average $131.04 a person this year, up 11% from 2010, and NRF president Matthew Shay called this trend "a good sign leading into the much busier and important months to come."
Joel Bines of AlixPartners told the New York Times that the "thing about retail is everyone talks about weather and holiday shifts, and that's usually deep enough analysis for most. But we're seeing a real firmness in the marketplace for retailers that used the last couple of years to get their house in order."
Although she still opposes a sales tax break for Amazon, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said Wednesday she will let state lawmakers decide the matter. WSPA-7 reported that Haley "doesn't want to use state tax policy to pick winners and losers, but she will let the tax break become law without her signature if it passes." Amazon is building a distribution facility that would bring 1,200 jobs to Lexington County.
Yesterday, a coalition of community and business leaders gathered at the Lexington County administration building to show their support for Amazon, arguing that the online retailer is not attempting to avoid charging sales tax on items. "They said it is the responsibility of shoppers to pay that tax on their own," WIS News 10 reported.
But not everyone agrees. "Statewide, they get a 6% on the dollar competitive advantage on every purchase," said small business leader Brian Flynn, "And most of these online retailers make so many sales that they can offer free shipping. If you ask any small business owner out there, they're going to say they're getting hurt."
The digital edition of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has sold one million copies "in what is believed to be a first for an e-book," the New York Times reported, adding that the combined digital sales for the Millennium Trilogy are currently more than three million copies and "selling at a clip of more than 500,000 copies a month in all formats."
A book fair held in Cairo's now iconic Tahrir square recently brought a "new dawn for publishing in Egypt," BBC News reported. In January, the Cairo Book Fair had to be canceled (Shelf Awareness, February 1, 2011) as the revolution gained momentum, but the Tahrir Book Fair, organized by the American University in Cairo Press, "will have major impact on new literature across the Middle East."
"Writers and poets have been inspired," said Yasmine el Dorghamy, an Egyptian publisher and founder of the magazine Egypt Heritage Review. "Indeed these events don't just happen suddenly. It is like an engine that needs to be warmed up. It's writing that pushed the people out [on to the streets] and vice versa.... Now we can say whatever we want, we can publish whatever we want."
Trevor Naylor, associate director of the American University in Cairo Press Bookstore, observed, "Almost every aspect of daily life, whether selling books or just normal conversation, has a revolutionary flavor to it. It completely dominates all thinking and creative output at the moment.... The whole of the Middle East is a creative writing center. If everybody is able to express their own voice in their writing then I think there will be a great cultural interchange."
Holly Wallace, a founder of Menasha Ridge Press, died last Friday of complications from abdominal surgery. She was 56.
was the press's national sales manager during the 1980s. She was
diagnosed in her early 20s with rheumatoid arthritis and appeared on the
cover of Newsweek in 1987 as an advocate for those with the
disease. Bob Sehlinger, publisher and a founder of Menasha Ridge Press,
said that "no one embraced life more, or lived it more fully than Holly
Wallace. Her courage and positive attitude in the face of great
adversity were an inspiration for all who knew her."
Bookselling This Week explored the gastronomic wonders of indie bookstores that "have added food products to the mix.... Whether they view the products as a great gift item, an opportunity to sell locally sourced goods, or to strengthen community ties, booksellers are selling food with great success."
"It's such a great gift item," said Kenny Sarfin, owner of Books & Greetings, Northvale, N.J. "If you're getting someone a book about Italy, throw in some pasta. If your'e getting a kid's book for a birthday party, why not add some candy?"
Readers' Books, Sonoma, Calif., sells organic farm fresh eggs. "People just love those eggs," said co-owner Andy Weinberger. "It's such a huge hit. We have a list of people we call when they arrive, and they're gone in a day."
Harvey Finkel, owner of Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, N.J., is soliciting recipes from customers for a bookstore cookbook. "It's a fun thing to do, it gets people involved, and maybe we can make a little bit of money for the store, too.... It's a great community building event. We all have to eat. A lot of people love food, and we know people love books. It's a great connection. Do it!"
Next Chapter Bookstore & Bistro, Northville, Mich., is preparing numerous events to celebrate next week's release of the movie Scream 4, parts of which were shot in the bookshop. Co-owners Dan and Kathy Comaianni are "inviting the community to tour the store, which is being set up with a variety of props that were used in filming the scene where Gale Weathers and Sidney Prescott, the characters played by [Courteney] Cox and [Neve] Campbell, meet for the first time in 10 years for a book signing," the Detroit Free Press reported.
Cool idea of the day: Last Saturday, the staff at Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga., went barefoot for One Day Without Shoes, sponsored by Toms Shoes to raise awareness about the millions of children forced to go barefoot, Bookselling This Week reported.
"Since this is largely a children's issue, a children's bookstore seems as good of place as any to do this," said co-owner Dave Shallenberger, who once served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia.
In addition to a special storytime, the bookstore offered barefoot customers a 1% discount per toe. "This inspired a number of people to take off shoes and socks at the counter," he added.
Bella as a vampire and in her wedding dress. Entertainment Weekly featured a pair of images from Stephenie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, which will be released April 12.
Flavorwire showcased 10 Delicious Memoirs from Chefs, noting that during the "past few years, we’ve watched 'foodie' culture explode into prime time, elevating many chefs to celebrity status. It's no wonder, then, that the chef memoir has become as much of an art form as cooking itself."
This week's choices for NPR's What We're Reading series include No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke, Bossypants by Tina Fey, A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS by Jennet Conant and Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness.
Book trailer of the day: If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster (NAL), the humorist and memoirist's first novel.
Under a new partnership, Bowker is providing its new manuscript submissions service
to the 3,000 members of the Independent Book Publishers Association,
giving them access to an online book proposal site and a way to review
unsolicited manuscripts online.
On the service, a prospective
author uploads a book proposal and sample materials as well as
information about the proposal's subject category, topic, the writer's
background and publishing history, a book synopsis and writing sample.
president Florrie Kichler said, "Publishers are continuously
overwhelmed and interrupted with unsolicited manuscripts that don't
match their interests. BowkerManuscriptSubmission.com applies a proven
method for addressing this issue, allowing publishers to review book
proposals in an efficient, time-saving manner."
Effective this month, Radical Publishing's
graphic novel titles and products will be distributed to bookstores, mass
market merchandisers, libraries and other outlets worldwide by Diamond Book
Distributors. The deal begins with previous backlist titles and new frontlist
for the book market with June releases.
Founded in 2008 and focusing on
character-driven mythological or genre-based stories, many of which are
developed with an eye on the film industry, Radical Publishing has been
distributed by Random House and was earlier distributed by Diamond. Among its
titles are Hercules, Aladdin: Legacy of
the Lost, Earp: Saints for Sinners,
Legends: the Enchanted and Caliber.