Halloween in September?

Josie Leavitt -- September 15th, 2015

Every year I’m usually the one at the store resisting putting books out before their appointed holiday time. I’m not a fan of rushing seasons, but as we get in more and more Christmas books, I can’t help feel pressure to at least get the Halloween books out, if for no other reason than to make room for the 2016 calendars and holiday books that are filling up the back room. I remember when I was a kid, Halloween candy came out in early October, not August. There is something inherently depressing to me about this rush towards these holidays. It’s like we all can’t just be in the moment without looking down the road to the next big occasion. As a bookseller, I’ve resisted this rush, but this year, I’m all in.

halloweenYes, my Halloween display is up. It looks great and if full of wonderful books. I did this as an experiment. Would these books sell? Or would customers give us grief for having the books up? Well, the books are selling! And selling well. I do not understand it. But I’ve to the conclusion it doesn’t matter. People, especially busy ones with kids, jobs, etc., seem to be spontaneous shoppers who are always looking ahead. Halloween might not be on everyone’s radar on an 80-degree early September day, but if someone sees a good addition to their holiday books, they will buy it. We’ve had to restock the Halloween section several times already since we put them out at the end of August.

The key to this kind of display is to feature it, but not prominently. When you walk in the store the display is on your left by the window so it’s not really the first thing you see. This feels like a good compromise to me. We have the books, but they’re not dominating the store. Lots of people feel oppressed by stores rushing the seasons. I hear customers remarking that Halloween candy is already front and center at every store. I’m mindful of this, but frankly, if we didn’t have the display up, we’d be losing sales.

Here’s what I’ve learned. It’s not about my sense of timing, it’s about having the right books easily accessible to customers when they’re thinking about them. And if they’re thinking about Halloween in the middle of September, then it’s my job to have those books for them. Booksellers, I’m curious: what your thoughts are when you put out various holiday books? When will you put out your Christmas books?

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