|Trope Tea gift box
At The Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles, Calif., the holiday season kicked off in a major way on Small Business Saturday, which co-owners Bea and Leah Koch typically use as a time to launch their holiday shop with sales both in-store and online. They reported that the store had a "tremendous weekend" in online sales, and they and their staff spent most of last week getting all of those orders shipped out. As for big sellers, the store created its own line of tea this year called Trope Tea and is selling gift boxes containing the tea, a matching candle and a book that fits with the given trope; the boxes have been hugely popular so far.
The co-owners added that they've recently brought in handmade, felted ornaments featuring famous women that are produced by craftswomen based in Central Asia and sold through Silk Road Bazaar. Those have been hits as well, with the store already selling out of its Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Harriet Tubman ornaments. They reported having no problems yet with getting titles back in stock and said they're still doing events, with a romance trivia competition and holiday shopping night scheduled for this week.
Cindy Dach, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., said she and her colleagues have seen people starting their holiday shopping, and so far this year the dollar amount of purchases per customer has gone up. Dach and her team attribute this to there being one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than is typical, and she hopes that the higher sales amount per customer will ultimately make up for that lost week. At the same time, Dach said, they've noticed that while shoppers are buying books, much of their focus seems to be on gifts.
Several of the stores' big sellers have been surprises, such as The Body: A Guide for Occupants
by Bill Bryson and The Yellow House
by Sarah Broom, while other strong performers include Ben Lerner's The Topeka School
; Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk
by Jon Krakauer; and The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians
by David Rubenstein. Some of those, notably the Krakauer collection and The Topeka School
, have been hard to get back in stock.
On the children's side, Future President
by Lori Alexander and Allison Black has been huge, as have Guts
by Raina Telgemeier and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball
by Jeff Kinney. Gifts and sidelines are doing well across all categories, with ornaments and socks particular standouts, and Dach pointed to Pudus socks
and Thymes Frasier fir candles
as lines that will probably sell out well before Christmas.
In St. Paul, Minn., Red Balloon Bookshop had an "awesome" first week of December, spurred in part by an annual holiday event called the Grand Meander that is organized by the store's local business association. Angela Whited, the store's events and marketing manager, explained that this was "great news," as Thanksgiving week and Indies First were "spectacularly bad" due to back-to-back snowstorms that dropped sleet and inches of snow. Whited said that a big stand-out or book of the season has yet to jump out, but monthly subscription boxes and gift cards are all selling very well. In terms of non-book and gift items, she added that Frostbeard candles, which are made locally and are new to the store, have been very popular.
When asked about possible delivery problems, Whited answered that filling special orders in a timely manner has been "trickier" this year due to the "more limited wholesaler options," but aside from that, deliveries have generally been arriving when expected. The store is also just about done with events for the year, though children's storytime sessions will continue until the week before Christmas. After that, Whited said, even the storytellers are needed for shelving, gift-wrapping and handselling.
And at the MIT Press Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., store manager Clarissa Murphy explained that with the store located on campus and most of the customers students, faculty and tourists, things were actually very quiet around Thanksgiving, but with the break over and people back in town, the selling season has started to pick up. The store's bestsellers in the past week include four MIT Press titles--Deep Learning by John D. Kelleher; Fire, Ice and Physics by Rebecca Thompson; Artist in the Machine by Arthur I. Miller; and Beyond the Valley by Ramesh Srinivasan--and Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification by May Theilgaard Watts (Wilderness Press).
Murphy added that the store doesn't many sidelines, but what they do have has been selling well, including Neuro Bloom enamel pins made by Shiny Apple Studio; cards and iron-on patches from Frog & Toad Press; cards, gift wrap and educational posters from Fairhope Graphics; and Field Notes journals. --Alex Mutter