One benefit of working in a bookstore in which I only pick out one department worth of inventory is that I am constantly gifted (or cursed?) with the experience of discovery when I least expect it. Our store offers an enormous selection of gift items, clustered in baskets on the stairs, artfully arranged on fixtures and slatwalls, and curated by our talented gifts buyer Cassie Swank—who talks a lot these days about sloths and geodes and witchy candles. Cassie’s craftiest trick? She positions this case of wind-up toys right at the cash registers. I have yet to get through the line with my kids in tow without picking one up.
Working in an environment with so much to look at is, frankly, both delightful and perilous. Sometimes my impulse purchases are motivated by simple supply and demand, like the fingerless gloves I type with when my office is cold. But my kids are really the main beneficiaries, to be honest. I often buy items off displays in passing and save them for just the right occasion (which actually really helps me out). When I went to New York for publisher meetings in March, I knew my kids would expect me to bring something back for them. But I had limited time, so I grabbed two of these awesome robot helmets Cassie had just brought in from Aeromax before I left and hid them until I got back. And voilà! Instant presents. They never questioned the fact that together the helmets would have taken up about 85% of my suitcase, but that’s all part of the fun.
In the spirit of full disclosure, the foam padding on the base of the helmets came off in the first 30 minutes of play. I just wrapped the edges in tape, and they’ve withstood heavy rotation for months. (And yes, those are an old pair of promotional Spiderwick binoculars enhancing that robot’s vision!)
Another well-loved impulse buy has been the flamingo umbrella from Streamline. It was just so big and pink and cheerful that I grabbed it on a whim one day. The kids loved it so much that they immediately claimed it as the centerpiece of all their exuberant rain celebrations. I think I actually bought it on the same day as the Mo Willems Piggie Lunch Bag from Kids Preferred. I order the Kids Preferred line myself because we mostly carry their literary tie-in items, so I can’t blame Cassie, but maybe I was just in a pink mood?
And today Cassie’s clever merchandising struck again. My nieces are flying in from Massachusetts tomorrow night, and while I’d already gotten some personalized books for the occasion, I saw a display of these little jellyfish bath lights from DreamsUSA and thought they would make the perfect fun add-on. That’s right, Cassie, I guess you got me again.