With 10 days to go until Indies First, to be held Saturday, November 28, booksellers across the country are finalizing their plans for the event, which began two years ago and is supported in a major way by the American Booksellers Association.
Octavia Books in New Orleans, La., is bringing in a dozen local authors to work as booksellers on Saturday, November 28. The store will open an hour earlier than usual, and from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., the authors will work in two-hour shifts, mostly in pairs. Co-owner Tom Lowenburg is unsure if his store will offer any food or drinks, but in the past it hasn't seemed to make a difference. The most important part, Lowenburg said, is having the authors there.
"It's certainly grown each year. Indies First has been wildly successful," continued Lowenburg, who has participated in the event since 2013 and in Thanks for Shopping Indie even before that. "Our customers enjoy having the authors in the store. They're understanding what Small Business Saturday is all about. They're responding to the idea of shopping locally, that it's a much better kind of shopping experience. The whole Black Friday thing is largely about herd manipulation, treating people as if they're herds of animals. We treat our customers individually."
|Sparkey wants you to shop at Parnassus on Small Business Saturday.
Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., the store will follow a playbook very similar to last year's, with some adjustments, according to social media director Mary Laura Philpott. In addition to bringing in local authors as booksellers throughout the day, Parnassus Books has partnered with other local businesses and the Nashville Independent Business Alliance for an initiative called IndieNashGiving, in which participating indie businesses plan to give 5%-10% of their revenue on Small Business Saturday to charity. This year, Parnassus Books has pledged to donate 10%.
Explained Philpott: "Basically, we want to make what we know will be a successful business day extra-meaningful, to take it beyond commerce to compassion, and to make a local impact on the folks and organizations around us who really need a boost."
In Los Angeles, Calif., Skylight Books will have six local authors in store throughout the day to recommend books to customers and write shelf talkers. And from 3 to 4 p.m. that day, the store will open its new, redesigned children's section with a party featuring cake, juice and balloons. Over the past few months, the store has completely reworked the children's section, with help from a James Patterson grant.
"With the redesigned children's section, we have vastly improved display space and better organization, and we're hoping that leads to a particularly good holiday season for that section," said general manager Mary Williams. Participants in Indies First since its beginning, Williams and her colleagues have learned the importance of knowing in advance what titles the authors plan to recommend. "They, of course, recommend other books from our shelves, but knowing we have a short stack of all their favorites makes it a lot easier for them and us."
As for the holiday shopping season, Williams is hoping for a strong finish to what's been a good year for the store. She's concerned about this year's El Niño weather pattern, which could bring heavy rain and flooding to southern California, beginning in January.
For Bethany Beach Books in Bethany Beach, Del., the busiest time of the year is the summer, and the holidays fall in the store's off season. According to assistant manager Amanda Zirn, this necessitates advertising very early. And in years past, Bethany Beach Books has run sales and promotions on Black Friday as well as Small Business Saturday. This year, though, there will be sales only on Saturday.
"It seems to make sales better and people know to just come in on that day," said Zirn. "It's more exclusive and exciting."
Bethany Beach Books will have two authors in store for Indies First, along with assorted sales and promotions. The store will also take part in an initiative to raise money for a local school's library. For $5, the store will be selling tote bags full of coupons to stores in downtown Bethany Beach, and proceeds from the tote bags will go to the school. Looking ahead to the holiday season, Zirn and her colleagues are putting particular emphasis on their Book Drop subscription service, which sends a new book to subscribers each month. In an effort to sign up customers not in the Bethany Beach area, the store is offering coupons and gift subscriptions to current subscribers. Explained Zirn: "We're trying to push that as a great gift."
Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich., will have six local authors in store on the 28th, but it faces an unusual challenge for Indies First this year. That Saturday is the same day as the game between the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State University Buckeyes, a college rivalry that dates back to 1897.
"I believe that many likely shoppers will be watching the game instead of walking around town," said Hilary Gustafson, co-owner of Literati Books. "But to entice those Michigan fans, we will have signed copies of John U. Bacon's Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football on hand for sale in store and ready to ship out to Michigan fans across the country."
In addition to the signed copies of Endzone and the guest booksellers, Literati Bookstore will offer baked goods from local stores throughout the day. And less than a week after Indies First, Literati will take part in Midnight Madness on December 4, an all-night shopping and dining event in downtown Ann Arbor organized by the city's Main Street Area Association. Literati has done both the Midnight Madness and Indies First before.
"We have fantastic turnouts for both events and it really underscores how supportive this town is for small business," said Gustafson. --Alex Mutter