Once-a-Year Shoppers

Josie Leavitt -- November 18th, 2013

It’s starting to be that time of the year again, when the once-a-year shoppers start to come back to the bookstore. I’m not sure, exactly, who these folks are, but I’m sure glad they shop with us for their holiday books. Every year I marvel at how early people get their shopping done. Not just some of it, but all of it. I haven’t even worn a winter coat yet and there are people who’ve just finished all their shopping. And they finished it at the bookstore.

I used to wonder where people got their books the rest of the year, and then yesterday I had an epiphany: I don’t care. These are folks who probably go to the library and that’s totally fine. What I care about is the children in their lives who only get gifts at holiday time. My job is blow them away with my book selection so they know they can come in the store and in however much time they have to shop, they will leave with the perfect books.

There is an inherent challenge with these annual shoppers. The risk of repeating a book for someone looms large. And there’s nothing worse than getting the same book two years in a row. It sends the message to the giftee that you’re not really paying attention to them. But I can’t remember what I read last week, I certainly can’t remember what book I gavemy  niece last Hanukkah, so I don’t expect customers to. This is especially challenging with the three to five-year olds who like anti-princess books, as was the case yesterday. This is why we have a book club.

We don’t use our frequent buyers club to harvest emails or sell our list. We use it to help customers not repeat books. This lovely grandmother with fraternal twin grandkids came in and got very comfortable in the picture section. We selected books about strong girl characters for her to look at and then she pared down from 20 books to 10. Then she just kept going, asking us what books we loved. Her stack grew large and we double checked a few books in her customer file to make sure they weren’t duplicates. They weren’t.

The lovely grandma left the store with a tote bag overflowing with stunning and appropriate kid-friendly picture books. I’ve already started thinking about next year for her when the twins start reading.

3 thoughts on “Once-a-Year Shoppers

  1. Carol Chittenden

    And isn’t it one of the finest things in the world to see that list grow up with the child? We have some for whom we helped choose as toddlers, and now they’re in college — and still loving books! Getting to know their personalities, hearing how they change over the years, is as much fun for us as for the grandparents. Must be what it’s like to be a teacher (an occupation of which I am perpetually in awe) and see former students graduate.

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