‘Tis the Season?

Josie Leavitt - October 18, 2010

As readers of this blog will know, I have been away from the store for the last few days. While I was gone I got an email from a staffer asking if she could set up the Christmas books. Christmas — really?  It’s not even Halloween yet, but apparently our store was full of shoppers who were looking for holiday books. It’s October! I thought about it for a little bit, and then caved and called the store and told them to go ahead and set up the holiday case. One staffer was actually dancing when she heard the news. I’m still stunned that it’s not even November and we’ve already got the holiday books up.
When we first opened, 14 years ago, holiday books went up the week of Thanksgiving. I always tried not to rush the seasons, because it irritates me when I go to other stores in August and the Thanksgiving candy turkeys are on display. What’s the hurry? Why can’t we wait to have holiday books out when it’s actually cold out? Apparently, our customers can’t. So, neither can I.
I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been receiving holiday books since late July. For some reason, the publishers think that all bookstores have room to house holiday books for months before they go out on the shelf. So now, rather than having box upon box of books stored for a holiday months away, we now have them on the shelf, where our early-bird shoppers can actually see them, and better yet, buy them.
I’m curious: when do other bookstore put out their holiday books out, and when do customers start asking for them?

13 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season?

  1. fred powell

    We put Thanksgiving and Christmas/seasonal holiday books on display when we take down Halloween. We don’t find anyone buying the books that early but customers do like to start browsing the section by early November.

    1. Josie Leavitt Post author

      I’ll admit, I’ve been hard pressed to believe the rush on the holiday books, but darn if I haven’t already sold two this morning. And it’s not that cold here. So, go figure.

      1. Dana

        We sold two yesterday too. I’m one of the fans of Wait until after Thanksgiving! However, because of the interest, I’m starting with some around the first of November, replacing when needed, and going all out the day after Thanksgiving.

  2. Alan Gratz

    I wonder if this is something that is triggered by the weather. Someone I follow on Twitter from your neck of the woods said she’s already seen a bit of snow. Do you think shoppers in New England are thinking winter holidays earlier than shoppers, say, in the south? We certainly see holiday stuff go up early here in the south, no doubt about it, but I think a lot of that is the national retailers setting early dates for holiday products.
    Southern indie booksellers, do you feel a consumer push for winter holiday books already?

  3. Bonnie from Alexander Book Co.

    All of our holiday books go into the holiday book section when they arrive. This means that I have Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Ramadan, Autumn Moon Festival and a lot of other things all mixed in with my WAY too many winter holiday books. It is my policy to never, ever put a Christmas/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Hanukkah book out on the display wall before mid-November. I’ll start putting a few up with the Thanksgiving books with a sign telling shoppers that there are many more upstairs to choose from. I’m happy to sell the books whenever someone is overcome with the urge to buy them, but I don’t ever want to be one of those places that people cringe at seeing things marketed too early.

  4. Chris Henderson

    I know part of the reason for rushing the season is to get buyers in the mood to spend; however I like to be led slower into the season. I participate in a big event in my community for Halloween and I have no focus available for Christmas right now.
    Then there is Thanksgiving in November. This is when I would love to see books displayed for dieting so I don’t feel guilty about the turkey day binge. Why are they only set out for pre-summer and bikini shape? It’s just as important to look good in a glam New Year’s Eve dress that shows off your curves!

  5. Carol B. Chittenden

    Good topic! We have a tussle here every fall, with me, like you, wanting to hold back, and staff saying, “But customers are asking for them!” One thing I think has changed: stores like Flying Pig and Eight Cousins and their colleagues around the country have become very special, treasured destinations now, so people who are visiting from a distance are buying for the needs they anticipate over 3-6 months, and not just for the weekend’s birthday party. We always receive our first requests for Christmas wrapping over the July 4 weekend — and I’m sorry, but that’s too early to do a front of the store display! However, 6 weeks ahead is barely enough time for people who must budget and/or ship. So we, too, keep a Holiday section where the seasons intermingle until their act comes on, usually 8-10 weeks before the 11th hour.
    If I ever get to retire, I’m looking forward to a normal holiday calendar once again, instead of being constantly out of phase.

  6. michael

    As a shopper I find my budget takes less a hit if I can spread my holiday shopping over three months instead of six weeks.
    I also wonder if holidays books are more fun to read before Christmas, a good way to get into the coming holiday mood.

  7. Spellbound

    I put a toe in the water a few weeks ago by displaying a handful of holiday titles face out on a bottom shelf. I’ve sold a few already. I’ll turn our middle of the store Halloween display table into a fall/winter theme with some winter holiday titles after Halloween. With the subtraction of a few spooky props, our window display will carry us through Thanksgiving. The day after, the winter holiday window goes up. Not before. I’m being cantankerous about that, but I will continue to sneak more and more holiday titles into the mix before that, for reasons Carol pointed about. We have a lot of out-of-town customers, too, and a lot of grandparents and other older relatives who seem especially keen on shopping early. Which is the smart way to do it, both for your wallet and for your sanity come the holidays. I just can’t stomach putting up tinsel when the temps are still reaching the 70s!

  8. Carol Moyer

    Yes, customers are asking for Dec holiday books now. We have them available on overstock shelves below current displays. Because of our annual sale weekend early in Nov, all Dec holiday books will be on full display by Nov 5th. It rankles my sensibilities, but the store is for the customers, and they do want to shop early. The fall display, following Halloween, is laced with Thanksgiving books until that day.

  9. Joanne Fritz

    The minute Halloween is over, all the Christmas and Hanukkah and winter books go out on the tables. But even before then (right around now), we have to put a few books and toys out for those early-bird shoppers. The rest are easily accessible on overstock shelves. For some reason, people ALWAYS ask for The Night Before Christmas, starting around now. I sold a copy today for the first time.
    When I first started working at Chester County Book Company, we waited until Thanksgiving to put the Christmas books out. It’s gotten earlier every year. I’d rather wait until after Thanksgiving, but…
    And Kmart, next door, had all their Christmas merchandise out by the end of September this year. Agh!

  10. michael

    As a former bookseller and now just another customer I have found the comments here interesting. The majority of shoppers I believe do not want the Christmas displays up until after Thanksgiving. However, you do not have to set up displays to sell holiday themed books now. Earlier I posted why I believe holiday books sell now. I think the books can be available now and wait for the displays in December.

  11. Ellen Scott

    In the past, i think we did wait till Thanksgiving to put any books out but when people start asking for the Christmas, we feel like we should put them out somewhere rather unobstrusive but accessible like the backside of our main display. We’ll try to get some of the new ones out next week.


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