At East Bay Booksellers in Oakland, Calif., owner Brad Johnson and his staff have been selling an increasing amount of non-book items, particularly greeting cards, stationery, journals and writing utensils. Johnson reported that all of those categories are selling "exceptionally well," and that he and his staff have purposefully refrained from carrying sidelines and non-book items that are not book- or writing-related. Part of that, he explained, is because there are plenty of great gift stores already on their street. Another reason is that they very much want to focus on books and writing, and don't want to give up too much floor space to non-book items.
Johnson said he typically sources cards from independent, relatively local artisans, and usually discovers them on Etsy or through local vendor and trade shows. For journals, Johnson said he began with Moleskine and Shinola, before gradually exploring some lesser-known brands. In an effort to bring in stationery that is "a little off the beaten path," Johnson has started looking into international wholesalers and suppliers and has found success with stationery from Germany and Japan. East Bay's first foray into writing utensils, meanwhile, was with Blackwing pencils. Since then he has begun carrying pens--from a brand called Horizon, which he sourced from a Japanese wholesaler in Southern California called JPT, and from Troika, which has a U.S. branch in Portland, Ore.
|From Sacred Bee
In Hardwick, Vt., Galaxy Bookshop has been doing "really, really well" with cards lately, according to owner Andrea Jones. One of the store's bestselling card lines comes from local artist Shawn Bailey, while another popular line is the relatively local Sacred Bee, which is located in Connecticut. Another one of the store's bestselling non-book items, the dice game Tenzi, is also from Connecticut and is produced by the company Good Karma. Jones also mentioned Found Image Press, which is not local but has localized items. Currently Jones carries a selection of its vintage Vermont postcards, and in the past she's stocked journals with some of their images.
Jones reported that she recently brought in a knitted toy line from Pebble, which is moving well at the moment. Another interesting new addition is a game from Laurence King Publishing called Who Pooped?, in which players match 27 animals with their droppings. In the past Jones has had success with Decomposition notebooks, which she used to order individually from Baker & Taylor. This spring, she said, she's going to buy a full display of Decomposition notebooks. And when asked about perennial favorites, Jones mentioned Out of Print socks, tote bags and T-shirts, along with literary tattoos from Litograph.
Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C., reported that his store does very well with greeting cards, and Scuppernong-branded T-shirts and mugs have always been steady sellers. Lampkin said that he's been with Fresh Frances Greeting Cards "from the start," and lately has done extremely well with Sacred Bee cards. The store has also recently created its own postcard series, which Lampkin said works better "as a kind of brand opportunity than a great sales item." When asked about surprises, Lampkin said that there weren't any, although he did eventually decide to get rid of the store's booklights because of slow sales and thievery.
Along with greeting cards, stuffed animals are one of the store's bestselling non-book categories. Lampkin explained that there is a fox in the store's logo, which plays off of Aesop's fable of Fox and Grape, so fox toys sell well. Otherwise, the store carries plenty of unusual stuffed animals, such as aardvarks, anteaters and narwhals. On the subject of local items, Lampkin said he carries some bracelets from a handful of local artists, but otherwise not much. Lampkin added while he has always been careful to make sure the emphasis remains on the books in his store, he is unsure of how his sideline offerings will change over the next year and beyond, as Greensboro recently became the fifth city to partner with EBay for its Retail Revival program. --Alex Mutter
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