'Everything Theater Obsessives Need'
of one of our favorite bookstores in yesterday's New York Times travel section in a piece about Times Square.
The high price of gasoline and slowdown in housing is leading many middle class consumers to trim "upscale buying," as today's Wall Street Journal put it. For at least 10 years, many Americans have grown comfortable paying for "$4 cups of coffee and $400 handbags," the paper wrote, but now a variety of retailers--from Williams-Sonoma, Starbucks and Whole Foods to restaurant chains--are reporting sales slowdowns.
According to one retail consultant, low-income households are becoming more likely to stick to dollar stores and supercenters and middle-income families are visiting more mass merchants and grocery stores than specialty outlets.
Households earning as much as $75,000 a year are changing their habits. Types of spending most often reconsidered are fashion accessories, home décor, electronics and entertainment. Wealthy shoppers' spending seems unaffected so far.
At a time of year when students are most upset about the price of textbooks, the San Diego State University Bookstore is increasing the number of used books it stocks to 75,000 and lowering prices by 4%-15%.
"We are lowering the prices on 40 of the most widely used titles by a full 15%," Todd Summer, course materials director for Aztec Shops, said. "The 40 titles represent 20% of the textbooks we sell. These are the books for high-enrollment classes like Spanish 101, Chemistry 200 and IDS 290."
He added that research showed students believe they can save 20%-50% on textbooks by buying them online while the reality is closer to 5%-10%. The SDSU approach makes the store, he said, "competitive with other brick-and-mortar stores as well as business-to-consumer web retailers."
The Indianapolis Star surveys new and established independent stores in the Indianapolis area, saying, "Now a new breed of independent store is beginning to rechallenge the chains and discount online retailers. The new stores are smaller; they cater to a niche clientele. Their mantras are customer service, community relationships and giving book lovers something different."
The stores sampled:
Founded in the late 1930s, Readmoor Books in Grand Junction, Colo., is going out of business after a prospective buyer and the store's landlord couldn't agree on a new lease for the building, the Daily Sentinel reported. Marco Weber, who has owned the store with his wife, Dana, since 1989, said that the loss of several "mutually advantageous downtown businesses," including the Sundrop Grocery, hurt sales. He also blamed chain bookstores.
Weber, who is originally from Switzerland and has kept a carpet-cleaning business, Swiss Pro, in operation since before he bought the store, will continue that business.
The Book Blues bookstore, which Todd and Jacqueline Wilson opened in June in Marine City, Mich., has become affiliated with Books-for-Soldiers, which provides a way for people to send books and other items to armed forces members.
Book Blues will set up a system for customers to buy and donate books; it will also handle packing and shipping. In addition, the store is creating a Books-for-Soldiers T-shirt and will donate 20% of the profits to Books-for-Soldiers.
Book Blues, which stocks some 10,000 new and used titles, is also involved in an independent effort to revitalize the downtown area.
Book Blues is located at 102 Broadway St., Marine City, Mich. 48039, 810-765-8111; TheBookBlues.com.
Bookselling This Week offers a column by Amy Stewart about the new owner of Northtown Books, Arcata, Calif., a column that originally appeared in the August 3 issue of Humboldt County, California's North Coast Journal. A longtime employee, Dante DiGenova bought the store on June 1 from Art Burton and Barbara Turner.
DiGenova said that he doesn't expect to change much at the store. "Art and Barbara knew what books the community was interested in, and I think I have a good feel for that too," he told Stewart. "We'll keep our lefty/political slant. That's just right for this town. We'll keep doing the special orders, and we'll try to do more author events when we can."
One change on the horizon, however, involves "the quirky titles that Art and Barbara might have ordered just because they liked them. Those were the books that just sat on the shelves for four years, but we liked having them around. Now there will be a different little set of quirky books that nobody buys, but they'll be the ones I'm interested in."
Bookstore sales in June were $1.176 billion, up 4.2% from $1.129 billion in the same month in 2005, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Total retail sales rose 5.3% to $337 billion from $320 billion in June 2005.
The Census Bureau revised May bookstore sales up slightly, to $1.118 billion, from $1.111 billion.
For the year to date, bookstore sales are $7.470 billion, up 0.8% from $7.411 billion in the same period a year ago.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.
Tough comparisons to July last year, when Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince sold many millions of copies, affected sales at the chains in the second quarter.
Sales at Barnes & Noble fell 1% to $1.2 billion in the second quarter ended July 29, but net earnings rose 23% to $16.6 million.
Sales at B&N stores were $1 billion, the same level as last year, while sales at B&N stores open at least a year were down 2.6%. Sales at B. Dalton Bookseller dropped 31% to $21.9 million, in large part because of store closings, and sales at Dalton stores open at least a year were down 9.1%. Sales at B&N.com fell 14% to $82.7 million.
Bestselling titles during the quarter included Kim Edwards' The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Fannie Flagg's Can't Wait to Get to Heaven and Anderson Cooper's Dispatches from the Edge.
The company declared another quarterly dividend of 15 cents per share, payable on September 29.
Net sales at Books-A-Million fell 0.7% to $121.2 million in the second quarter ended July 29, compared to the same period a year ago. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.2%. Net income rose 47% to $2.5 million in the second quarter.
BAM president and CEO Sandra B. Cochran said that the company was "pleased" with results for the quarter despite "challenging comparison. . . We were able to exceed our sales and profit objectives for the quarter. An aggressive merchandising and marketing plan, good execution in the stores and continued discipline in controlling inventory and operating costs contributed to an impressive increase in net income."
In related news, on September 14 Books-A-Million is paying another quarterly dividend of eight cents a share.
Hugendubel and Weltbild are combining their bookselling operations to become Germany's largest book retailer, Bloomberg reported. The new DBH Buch Handels will be owned 50% by each company; DBH Buch Handels will also buy stakes in two other bookselling companies, Buch Habel in Darmstadt and Weiland in Luebeck.
DBH Buch Handels's 2005 revenue of 672 million euros (about $861.9 million) makes it larger than Thalia, the Douglas Holding subsidiary with sales of 332 million euros ($425.8 million).
"We will benefit from our pooled resources," Hugendubel and Weltbild said in a statement.
Here's one of the more unusual bookstore boasts: the world's longest underground bookstore--one kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) long--has opened in an underground street in the Taipei subway in Taiwan, according to the China Post. The retail area had clothing stores, then restaurants, but neither approach was successful. Bookseller Lu Chin-cheng has rented the whole space and is selling books from all the country's publishers and plans to add books published in China, Japan, Korea and Western countries for tourists.
Taipei has several areas with high concentrations of bookstores.
In one of the odder stories we've found on the Internet lately, the Mehr News Agency in Iran debates window displays in bookstores, particularly in Tehran's Enqelab St., where some bookstores don't display books and others are "only somewhat concerned about the issue." Many stores have a variety of reasons for not displaying books, from a lack of effectiveness to problems agreeing on displays with co-owners. Some stores prefer to use barkers to advertise titles. Stores in the shopping mall, some of which are owned by publishers, do a better job of displaying books, the service said. It added: "Iran has very few avid readers. Most people buy books because they are told to do so or because of a necessity in their careers."
Today on Imus in the Morning, Patrick J. Buchanan talks about his new book, State of Emergency: How Illegal Immigration Is Destroying America (Thomas Dunne, $24.95, 0312360037). He will also appear on the Today Show and Fox's O'Reilly Factor.
This Morning on Good Morning America: Jared Fogel, author of Jared, the Subway Guy: Winning Through Losing: 13 Lessons for Turning Your Life Around (St. Martin's Press, $22.95, 0312353588).
Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Lawrence Wright, whose new book is The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, $27.95, 037541486X).
Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Sarah Chayes, author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (Penguin, $25.95, 1594200963).
Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.), co-author with Bruce Reed of The Plan: Big Ideas for America (PublicAffairs, $19.95, 1586484125). President Clinton is expected to call in. Emanuel will also be on MSNBC's Hardball and the Al Franken Show today.
Also scheduled for Charlie Rose: Roger Rosenblatt, author of Lapham Rising: A Novel (Ecco, $23.95, 0060833610).
Tonight on the Colbert Report, Fresh Air commentator Geoffrey Nunberg talks about his new book, Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism in a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show (PublicAffairs, $26, 1586483862).
Shelf Awareness suffered a rare geographic meltdown last Thursday. For one, the new Book Hunters Used & Rare store that opened July 1 was and remains in Carmel, Ind., not in California. And Eyes on Austin, the African-American community center that has opened a small bookstore, is looking at Austin, Ill., not Austin, Tex.
Our apologies for the confusion!