End of Summer Shoppers

Josie Leavitt -- August 27th, 2012

The end of the summer always brings several kinds of shoppers to the store. The first is the kid who needs to finish summer reading assignments. The second are the moms who are thrilled that the kids are finally heading back to school. And the final end of summer shopper is the college student who was home for the summer and is now returning to school.

We actually had a sign up on our summer reading display that said: lots of books under 200 pages, ask us for recommendations. I do derive a perverse pleasure in seeing the kids come in with a slightly panicked look as they try to find their books for summer reading. Why this amuses me so, I’m not really sure, but I can’t help but laugh a tiny bit. All the kids have the same look when they’re looking at the books: slightly wide-eyed and twitchy.

They are scanning for book length, font size and ease of language. I tried to explain to someone yesterday that she didn’t really have much choice about what to read because there was no time to order books before the weekend. School starts Wednesday, so she was stuck with Brave New World  and a version of The Scarlett Letter with the smallest print in the world.

As the summer nears its end, we’ve had a resurgence of women buying books to replace the void left by finishing the Fifty Shades of Grey series. These women love their families, but have found it very difficult to read the other erotica they want with all their kids at home. Now that school in Vermont starts in five days, women have been stocking up. Everyone, it seems, has their list of alternate titles on their phones. They come to the counter, pull up the list and then practically leap for joy when we have all of the titles. One mom put it very bluntly: “It’s time for some me time.” I love helping these women because they are now able to speak about erotica without turning red. They are proudly walking out of the store with their books in their hands, skipping ever so slightly.

The last kind of customer is returning to college. Several of them have stopped on their way back to school. They just need that one last pleasure book. What’s so charming about it is they head right back to the YA section and pick out one of their comforting favorites. They stride up to the counter and hug their book on the way out. I love that.

And finally, there’s a category of end of summer shopper I totally forgot about: the teacher with hundreds of dollars to spend NOW. There can be no ordering. They just need what we have. After six teachers spending hundreds from the end of the day Thursday to Saturday, our middle grade and YA sections are looking fairly spare. I do love the frenetic nature of this kind of shopping. Teachers are just as bad as the kids who are late with their summer reading. I know no one really wants to think about work during the summer, but the sheer number of teachers who have called to make appointments with Elizabeth and me for the weekend is staggering. I fear by today, I’ll have no books left.

I so love the seasonal shifts. Fall is one of my favorite seasons, especially in Vermont. But in the retail world it triggers a little bit of a lull, where we can all catch our breath and gear up for the fourth quarter.

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