Wrapping in the Holidays

Josie Leavitt -- December 3rd, 2010

The holidays always bring the inevitable question for booksellers: just how many books do you wrap for free? We are a small store and don’t have a wrapping station as the larger stores do. We also don’t have little elves who do nothing but wrap, like you find in department stores.

What we do have is an abundance of gift wrap styles to choose from. Some classic holiday-themed ones from snowflakes to a smart Hanukkah wrap. We’ve also gone green. Every style of our gift wrap is recycled and that seems to make a huge difference with our customers. Ironically, it’s led to more requests for gift wrapping. Because we have so many different styles of wrap we’ve developed a way to help customers decide what wrap they’d like. We’ve made a small poster board with samples of all of the wrap that we can show customers while we ring them up. This way, when we’re done ringing them up, they’ve decided which wrap they want. You know, you wouldn’t think this decision would take so long, but often this is the longest part of holiday transactions.

We wrap the first two items free and then we ask for fifty cents for all the next items, which we will then donate to our local food shelf. No one has balked at paying for the wrapping, in fact, some folks have contributed more, which is great. We ask that if folks have a lot of presents they’d like wrapped and the store is busy to come back in a hour or two. This is a simple thing, but it really helps us to provide help to the other customers in the store. No one really minds coming back. I think it gives them a reason to treat themselves to a cup of coffee down the street or to continue to browse in the store.

The staff has determined that I’m not a great wrapper, as they all practically leap over themselves to offer to help me when I’ve rung up a customer who wants something wrapped. It’s actually funny. And honestly, I don’t like to wrap, so I’m happy for the help. I have a tendency to either cut myself or actually uncurl curling ribbon, which then just hangs there limply and has to be redone. I know wrapping is wasteful and not good for the environment, but there is something lovely about a beautifully wrapped package, especially when it holds something as delightful as a book.

7 thoughts on “Wrapping in the Holidays

  1. Heather Lyon

    We do free wrap, and I swear we make extra money because of it. People usually find more things they want to buy while we’re doing the wrapping. They apologize for the extra transaction, and we smile and say it’s no trouble at all.

  2. Sheela Chari

    Our indie bookstore wraps for free. My child recently went to two parties, so I bought books for both birthday kids and had them wrapped. Another girl party, whose birthday was coming up, asked for a book from that store because of the pretty wrapping! Imagine that!

    From a customer’s point of view, being able to shop somewhere where I know I can also have the present wrapped is a selling point for me. Especially when I try to give books as gifts when I can. But I can understand during the holidays that the wrapping can add up for the lone bookseller at the cash register!

  3. Spellbound

    Has anyone considered a self-serve wrapping station? I haven’t done this, but it occurs to me that, if you have room, you could set up a table with paper, ribbon, tape, etc. and when there is a long line you could offer the choice of coming back later or wrapping it themselves. (I thought of this because some customers ask if they can just have enough paper for the book so they can take it home and wrap it; they don’t want to hold up the line or are in a hurry, but are glad they don’t have to make another stop for wrapping supplies!)

  4. Carol B. Chittenden

    We have a signature style that has become prized in town, and the entire staff (even the teenage boys!) enjoy doing once they get the basics down. Our tacit rule of thumb is that we don’t OFFER to wrap items under about $7.00, but will do anything on request. Though I often debate the costs with myself, every time I do I see another instance that while we’re wrapping, the customers are still shopping. That pays for the paper and the payroll, if not the stickers, right there.

  5. Trixie

    Back in my store days I would volunteer for the wrapping station as I don’t mind it. We had a customer come in and purchase 15 $1.00 bargain books and asked to have them individually wrapped. REALLY? A few of the books might have been wrapped with the $1.00 sticker still on them. Just saying.

  6. Cynthia Compton

    We wrap everything (ask me how to wrap an assembled dollhouse, or a castle, or my personal “favorite”, the Bilibo). When it gets nuts at our store during the season, we bring in the high school kids. We’ve had the local high school cheerleaders, the National Honor Society, the Crew team, and the Show Choir all as guest “wrappers”. We set them up in the party room, crank up the music, and let the kids wrap away. We will take donations from customers, but I usually just make a cash donation from the store to their service project. That way, the kids get credit for “service hours”, which they need for school. Cheap, fun, and the kids are great, fast wrappers!

  7. Lorna

    I agree! I find wrapping one book is easy, but try wrapping three different shaped board books together and it’s an awkward, misshapen mess. That’s when I overcompensate with the extra curly ribbon!

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