Sidelines Snapshot: Water Bottles, Puzzles, Tea and Toys

From Swig

At Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville and Downers Grove, Ill., "anything book-related is going well," reported gift buyer Sally Blackburn, pointing to items like Paddywax literary candles as well as socks and pins from Out of Print. Water bottles and other items from Swig, she added, are also doing particularly well, and the store is looking forward to Swig's holiday versions.

Anderson's added products from Wrendale Designs this year, which includes greeting cards, stationery, socks and scarves, with Blackburn noting that the packaging is "beautiful." Asked whether popular items or customer buying habits have changed much recently, Blackburn said the bookstore team has not "identified any changes for pre- and post-pandemic."

Chicago Rocks Glass from Well-Told Design

On the subject of locally made sidelines, Blackburn pointed to custom mugs for the Downers Grove and Naperville stores made by the company It Takes Two. Anderson's also carries barware made by Well Told, which features etched maps of Naperville and Chicago. Both of these companies, she said, have been easy to work with and their products sell well.

Some of the store's perennial favorites, meanwhile, include socks, aprons, bags, oven mitts and kitchen towels from Blue Q, tea from Republic of Tea, Chronicle puzzles with book-related images and Swedish dish cloths from a variety of vendors.


Beth Black, co-owner of Bookworm of Omaha in Omaha, Neb., said that puzzles, candles, board games and strategy games, as well as notecards and stationery, have been selling well at the moment. The store has not brought in many new sidelines lately; they've been focusing instead on "ordering heavier" in categories that have proven track records.

Considering whether shopping habits have changed since the start of the pandemic, Black said customers seem to be buying things that make them feel better or feel nostalgic about "how things used to be," which she called "comfort buying."

Asked about some of the store's steady sellers, Black pointed to Thymes fragrances; puzzles from vendors like Springbok, Ravensburger and White Mountain Puzzles; Abdallah candies; greeting cards from Crane and Caspari; reading glasses from I Heart Eyewear and 2020 Vision; and children's plush toys from Folkmanis and Gund.


In Greensboro, N.C., Scuppernong Books has done especially well with store-branded merchandise, owner Brian Lampkin said. Totes, mugs and stickers with the store's name have all done nicely since the start of the pandemic, with Lampkin attributing that success to customers wanting to support the bookstore in any way they can. Some of those branded items were difficult to get back in stock; Lampkin noted that mugs in particular took "months" to arrive.

Scuppernong finally "reopened in earnest" in early June, with the bookstore's bar open again for the first time since early 2020 and no occupancy restrictions in place. The increase in traffic has led to better sales for sidelines, including puzzles, particularly those made by a local puzzle maker that feature Greensboro, and stuffed animals from Douglas Cuddle Toys. Greeting cards and reading glasses, Lampkin added, have been consistently popular, too. --Alex Mutter

If you'd like your store to be featured in a future Sidelines Snapshot article, please reach out to Alex Mutter at

Powered by: Xtenit