Ho, ho hum. Among the trends in general retail of the solid but not overwhelming holiday season:
- Internet sales again rose significantly, estimated by some at as
much as 30% over the same period last year and amounting to perhaps $30
billion; 30% of households made purchases online.
Increased use of gift cards, which has skewed sales figures somewhat
since they aren't counted as sales until they're redeemed, effectively
extending the holiday season.
Sales at a range of stores open at least a year owned by some 70 general retailers rose between 3% and 3.5% during November and
December over the same period last year, according to the International Council of
Shopping Centers and UBS.
Same-store sales during December at Wal-Mart stores, the largest retailer in the country, rose just
2.2%, the company said, at the low end of its predicted 2%-4% increase and
a drop from 2004's gain of 3%. The company's gift card sales may boost
Booksellers' reports both direct to Shelf Awareness
and in other media were mixed.
The Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in and around Milwaukee, Wis., had a
"good season," according to v.p. and COO Mary McCarthy. The stores made
their number with two days left to go before the end of the year. She
called it "a challenging season with no one big book, but the buyers
and the publishers did a great job with stock." Like many other
booksellers, Schwartz had trouble getting copies of The Silver Spoon
which was its only hard-to-find title.
At Chesterfield Books, Chesterfield Township, Mich., the holiday season
began slowly but picked up the last week, owner Connie Geverink told
the Port Huron Times-Herald
. The Friday before Christmas was the
store's busiest day. Still, sales overall were similar to last year's
mainly because "people in Michigan are still worried about jobs and
unemployment," she said.
Andy Ross, owner of Cody's Books, which last year opened its third
store, in San Francisco, told the Contra Costa Times
that the new store
and the Fourth Street store in Berkeley had "a pretty good Christmas"
although the original Telegraph Avenue store, like other retailers in
that part of Berkeley, had "some problems."
Downtown Princeton, N.J., was busier than usual in December, according
to retailers quoted by the Princeton Packet
. Logan Fox, owner of
Micawber Books, said sales took off after December 15. "The streets in
particular felt really lively in a way that they haven't the last
couple years," he commented.
December was "a good month overall" and the last
week before Christmas was "a real hammer" at Fact and Fiction, Missoula, Mont., the Missoulian
reported. As at many other bookstores, this year's
store bestsellers were "all over the map," owner Barbara Theroux said. Among the
Fact and Fiction's top sellers during the year: Crusader's Cross
James Lee Burke, which outsold Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
X Out of Wonderland
by local author David Cates and The Kite Runner
The Andover Bookstore, Andover, Mass., had good weather on Christmas
Eve day, "an ideal day for last-minute shopping," owner Peter Hugo told
the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
. He's become used to "all those husbands"
who don't start shopping until 3:30 or 4 p.m. on the last day before
At least one bookseller opened on Christmas Day and drew about 30
people despite the pouring rain. breathe books, Baltimore, Md., had
planned to stay open 12-4 because owner Susan Weis wanted to offer
people a place to go on the holiday, particularly Jews, some of whom traditionally see
movies and eat Chinese food on Christmas. ("We're saying now there can be Chinese
food, movies and books!" she said in Shelf Awareness
, December 15.) The
group included new and regular customers, half Jewish and half Gentile.
Some brought Chinese food and set up a buffet. The customers stayed later than
expected, and at 6:30, Weis had to "kick people out."
Calling the day fun and "a money maker," Weis said that next Christmas she
wants to have music and maybe a poetry reading and donate some of the
day's proceeds to charity.
Buried in an announcement about record-setting holiday sales, Amazon.com said its top-selling books were The Chronicles of Narnia Box Set
(paperback) by C.S. Lewis, The World Is Flat
by Thomas L. Friedman and Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners (A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook)
by Rachael Ray.
The Borders in Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., drew
many travelers on their way out of town who needed to find last-minute
gifts, general manager Kathy Roe told the Arizona Republic
. Besides books, hot sellers were CDs, gift cards and iPods.
Another hot sideline, in California, reminds us of a calendar that was
a hit in the mid-1980s and featured Ronald Reagan. (There was probably
one for Bill Clinton, too, but that didn't enter our consciousness in the same way.)
The key chain features a digital clock that counts down the days
until President Bush's last day in office. It was created by Bookshop
Santa Cruz owner Neal Coonerty, who told the Santa Cruz Sentinel
that the store has sold 2,500 of the $11.98 key chain since October.