Christmas Round-Up

Josie Leavitt -- December 27th, 2010

Now that the absolute crush of the holidays is behind me, I can reflect on the season. After 14 years of retail, I can honestly say, I have never seen a holiday season like 2010. I’m not sure what happened, but it was gangbusters. We did no advertising, aside from our street-side sign board (very effective at getting the “stocking stuffer” folks in) and our in-store newsletter, which we normally mail, but this year didn’t. We did have a coupon in the Socially Responsible Business directory/coupon book, but other than that, nothing. And the customers streamed in, from the moment we opened, an hour earlier than normal, until well past closing.

I think our holiday season can best described by one of our staffers who used to be a nurse. “Christmas at the bookstore is a lot like when I worked at a mental hospital: you’re always trying to stay two steps ahead of the patients.” In our case we don’t have patients, but customers who don’t have a lot of time and need recommendations for lots of people. And while you’re helping one person you’re scanning the store to see who else might be needing your help. It’s exhausting, but it’s fun.

I am grateful to all the holiday shoppers who continually said that they wanted to shop local. We even had folks who only wanted to Christmas shop in Shelburne! Now, that’s keeping local. We had a spate of store and restaurants close this fall and I think people understood the importance of their local store and just how much each establishment means to the town.

This year we had our Snowflake giving program as usual. Each snowflake (we had about 40) strewn about the store represented a child who would otherwise not get a book for Christmas. On Christmas Eve one of the women who distributed the books came in to shop and told me, through happy tears, how much the books meant to the families. She said every mom told her the books meant so more much than the toys. Now, that just makes  a bookseller’s year.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Round-Up

  1. ce

    Now that’s a posting to relish!

    As the child of two booksellers (antiquarian, as well as current) I still remember some of the happiest Christmas Eves including home deliveries we made after closing the shop about 5:30 or 6.

    I love the thought that people are still choosing books for youngsters, and that youngsters are welcoming them! Not terribly long ago, I was at the local library, and a young man, maybe 8 or 9, had a small stack he’d selected. His mom had inadvertently left her card at home, and the library was ready to turn him away. I couldn’t stand it. Threatening the mom within an inch of her life if the books didn’t return on time, I handed the staffer my card, and agreed to take the responsibility.

    It wasn’t Christmas time, but the look in the child’s eyes made me feel the way I suspect Santa does, after a good night’s run. And I love the fact that the booksellers know at least some of their customers well enough to select books they know will be enjoyed. I still remember sitting down with the publishers’ reps, as they came through their Southern swing with the big looseleaf books of jackets of books in their upcoming line — and my parents ordering on the basis of, “Mrs. Archibald would like this one,” or Doug Jones will want this one.”

    We are fortunate in my little town today to have a well-stocked, knowledgeable bookstore. They don’t individualise the care as much as I wish, but if they can make a living and stay in business doing as they do, I consider my whole town gifted indeed. I only hope that the big box stores don’t undercut them to the point they can no longer make it. Honestly, as long as they can get what I want, I’d rather pay them 20 percent or more extra, just to help keep them in business. (And I’m no longer a dealer — only a customer these days.)

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