This past Saturday Amazon launched its assault on bricks and mortar stores with its promotion giving folks $5 back for using its price checker app and then ordering online. I was very curious how the day was going to go. Outside of a Harry Potter release day, we had never had a better day.
I attribute this to several reasons. The first is some backlash against Amazon. I had many customers say that they were Occupying the Flying Pig and spending their money with us. I even had new customers to the store from a town about 45 minutes away. The teenage girl came up to me with her iPhone set on an Amazon page (with a burst in the corner: save $5 with the price checker app — oh, silly of me to think they weren’t actually going to do books with the promo) of a Brad Meltzer book. We didn’t have it, but I asked who she was shopping for. We talked and I showed her some good mysteries. We settled on ordering large-print Dennis Lehane. That the family stayed with me for the whole ordering process (we drop-shipped it to their house) and didn’t just go back to Amazon, was perhaps the most heartening thing of the whole day.
The second thing that contributed to the day was my appearance on our local public radio show, Vermont Edition, to discuss winter reading. The show was loads of fun and, while I know it was a popular show aired twice a day, I had no idea just how many people listen to it. All day Saturday I heard from person after person who said who much they loved the books discussed on the show. That show was one of the most successful by-products of reaching a larger audience. It was very funny when the producer of the show decided to shop with us and overheard three customers saying they wish the book show was once a month. I have never felt the love so much from any other public venture.
And, the last reason is us. Our customers genuinely love shopping with us and the holidays just mean that all of them come to the store. It’s a like one big love fest. Saturday we saw customers who shopped with us the very first day we opened and new customers we see almost weekly. These are the people who count on us to know them and make great gift suggestions. For instance, a mom and her teenage son came in looking for gifts for younger cousins. I showed them a book on learning to draw fashion designs, knowing that Steph, the sister, loves to design clothes. They bought it and were touched that I thought about what Steph might like. All over America, indie booksellers are doing this with their customers. Nothing makes us happier than matching people with the right books.
And it’s far better to be matched to a book you’ll love by someone who actually knows you, and not an algorithm. Plus, we have sugar plums.