With Hanukkah ending and Christmas just over two weeks away, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Shelf Awareness has asked booksellers around the country how things are going so far.
At Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Ravenna and Seward Park, Wash., the start of the holiday selling season kicked off right after Thanksgiving, said managing partner Robert Sindelar. For both Thanksgiving weekend and the following weekend, all three stores were up, Sindelar reported, and Michelle Obama's Becoming is "obviously" already the "go-to book of the season." Aside from Becoming, however, there hasn't been anything too huge, but lots of titles that were already doing well--such as Tara Westover's Educated, Andrew Sean Greer's Less and Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, among others--have begun to "accelerate" as the end of the year approaches. Sindelar also pointed to some books released earlier in the year, like Tommy Orange's There There and Madeline Miller's Circe, that have started to pick up steam.
As far as sidelines and non-book items go, Sindelar said holiday-themed items are selling more swiftly this year, and crystals are particularly hot at the moment. Socks and chocolates continue to do well, and vinyl records, which Third Place Books only recently began to carry, are starting to move. Sindelar also noted that thanks to pushing for pre-orders throughout the summer and fall, the store's overall online orders have picked up quite a bit.
In New Orleans, La., Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Bookshop saw a huge Small Business Saturday and busy Thanksgiving weekend, though the week immediately afterward was not particularly busy. Owner Candice Huber reported that in the past week, however, things have begun to build. Becoming has been huge for her store and is starting to become "very difficult" to get back in stock. She added that some independent titles published through her store's own publishing program have also done very well.
Roughly half of Huber's store is devoted to board games, and she reported that themed versions of classic board games, such as the Golden Girls-themed version of Clue, have been great, along with anything Harry Potter related, including Harry Potter Clue and the new Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit game. Despite how busy things are getting, Huber will continue to do events, with annual holiday pop-up weekends being a store tradition. For those, she invites authors, local artists and other retailers to create small pop-ups inside of Tubby & Coo's. She's also planning an educator night, and the store's book clubs will continue regularly.
Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, reported a "fabulous" Small Business Saturday, with his store up 40% over last year and a great Cider Monday. Brechner pointed to Becoming, along with Louise Penny's Kingdom of the Blind and the children's book The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley as early top-sellers. Other bestselling children's books include Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang and Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager Weinstein, and Brechner added that Santa Bruce by Ryan Higgins and Snowy Nap by Jan Brett are the top two holiday-themed books. On the subject of Grumpy Monkey, Brechner added that the book's "flat-out appeal" is "something to marvel at. Its cover is literally a magnet." And when asked about surprises, Brechner brought up Hiro Arikawa's The Traveling Cat Chronicles.
Brechner has had trouble bringing Hilma Af Klint: Notes and Methods, which he called his favorite art book of the year, back in stock and bemoaned the fact that there won't be any more until February. In terms of sidelines, Brechner said The Squishable "Comfort Food" plushes have been huge, and other stellar sidelines include The Finger Elf spinner, the Maze Racers board game and Bookjigs Bookmarks.
At McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich., co-owners Matt and Jessilynn Norcross reported that customers seemed to have started their holiday shopping earlier this year, and over Thanksgiving weekend the store saw sales figures nearly identical to last year's, with Jessilynn Norcross adding that they were "literally within $50." Becoming has been a hit, and difficult to get back in stock. Norcross noted that there seems to be an increase in big, beautiful picture books such as Paul Nicklen's Born to Ice. She added that along with Becoming, The Happy Cookbook by Steve and Kathy Doocy has been difficult to restock.
When asked about sidelines, Norcross said they love the Activity Pack to Go series from Chronicle Books for Kids, although they, too, have been out of stock. The store has only one event left before the end of the year, which is part of Petoskey's downtown Holiday Open House. On the subject of other interesting trends, Jessilynn Norcross said that "customer satisfaction seems to be at an all-time high," helped by the fact that there are plenty of great new releases across a variety of genres. Matt Norcross, meanwhile, said that the store's online sales were up 76% in November and gift card purchasing continues to grow year over year.
And in Los Angeles, Calif., Skylight Books had a strong Small Business Saturday and Thanksgiving weekend. General manager Mary Williams added that, generally speaking, weekends have been pretty big since about mid-November, and weekdays are starting to ramp up but aren't "insane" quite yet. The store's bestselling title at the moment is Becoming, and Less is the store's second-highest seller since Thanksgiving. Skylight is also doing very well with A Final Companion to Books from the Simpsons by graphic designer Olivier Lebrun, which documents all of the books that have appeared on The Simpsons. Williams noted that it makes a great impulse buy at the register. Books by Joan Didion, she added, continue to "sell like gangbusters," with Slouching Towards Bethlehem once again on Skylight's bestseller list.
Williams said that the store sold out of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels box set pretty quickly and only just got them back in stock, while Leonard Cohen's The Flame has "been on backorder for weeks." For nonbook items, Williams said that a poster called "Dogs of the World," which features a map with drawings of dog breeds near their places of origin, is really popular. The store also sells hand-painted bookmarks made in Oaxaca, Mexico, that are always big sellers. --Alex Mutter