Holiday Prep at the Bookstore

Josie Leavitt - October 17, 2016

This is the time of year when all retail stores are gearing up for the rush that is the fourth quarter. It’s more than a question of guessing correctly what your customers will want. It’s about the other things that make for a smooth end of year. Of course having the hot titles and anticipating customer requests are an enormous part of the end of the year. There are always the unexpected hits of the season that leave everyone scrambling. How many people remember the popularity of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography that was utterly unobtainable the year it came out? While we cannot always guess at what will grab the public’s attention, we can be prepared in other ways.
The back end supplies that make a smooth holiday season cannot be overstated. It sounds silly, but not having enough Scotch tape can literally cripple a store during the holidays. There was a day several years ago when we ran out of tape early on a Sunday with no personnel or time to spare to go get more. Wrapping present after present with packing tape is not easy, efficient or all that effective. Every year Darrilyn gets our scissors sharpened. Until I started working with her, I didn’t even know you could sharpen scissors. But wow, what an amazing difference that made in the process of wrapping and ribboning gifts. Curling ribbon can be fussy and it’s a sad moment when that smooth pull of scissors on the ribbon has an anemic effect because they’re too dull.
Having enough gift wrap is also an issue. We have a plethora of choices which our customers seem to really enjoy. Again, anticipation is key. What gift wrap will be the most popular? Which ones say holiday gift, but aren’t so overtly Christmas-y that they can’t used throughout the winter? Do we bring in special Hanukkah wrap? Then of course there is the ribbon. We use curling ribbon on all gifts, and there has to be not only enough ribbon, but coordinated ribbon colors to go with all the gift wrap choices. And all of these things need to be ordered now. So we gamble, based on our experience what folks will want.
Other things that all stores need to think about are bags. Yes, we’re in Vermont and most of our customers don’t actually want a bag anymore, but that all changes during the holidays. The guessing game comes in with what size bags to get. Are we going to need more large handled shopping bags for bigger books and gifts? And how many bags do we need? The issue for a lot of smaller stores is storage. Boxes of bags are ridiculously large and require a dedicated storage spot that many of us just don’t have. We also have Flying Pig tote bags that we give to anyone who spends $100 in a transaction. These need to be ordered now as well to get them in time for the holidays. I actually enjoy these kind of holiday prep. It’s concrete and immensely satisfying. There is something delightful about looking around the register area and seeing that our supplies are stocked and ready. Knowing that the back room materials are in place leaves more mental room for the harder part of the holidays, which is anticipating what books will be the most asked for and making sure we have the stock on hand.
I’m curious what our readers think will be the hot books of the season. Please post a comment about the books you’re most excited to sell this coming season.

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