For the second year in a row, the July Find Waldo Local promotion, sponsored by the American Booksellers Association and Candlewick Press, boosted book sales for participating indie bookstores, solidified the Shop Local movement on many Main Streets, and made a lot of kids and their parents very happy. As to why the skinny guy in the striped shirt, black glasses, and watch cap has had such an effect, Joanna Parzakonis, co-owner of the Bookbug in Kalamazoo, Mich., explained: “The campaign speaks to the core of who and what we are as an independent bookstore: a cornerstone of creative fun and passionate enthusiasm for great books and a thriving local community.” Plus, as Becky Quiroga Curtis, children’s book buyer/children and YA events coordinator at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., noted in a phrase repeated by many: “A great time was had by all!” That includes not just searching for Waldo, but hiding him, or in some cases playing him or Wenda.
This year Candlewick and the ABA expanded the number of participating stores and businesses with more than 265 independent booksellers celebrating Waldo last month and more than 7,000 independent businesses, from bed-and-breakfasts to home goods stores, taking part. “We have reports that in many locations participation doubled, and in some cases tripled, over last year with notable upsurges in sales and foot traffic, upticks in TV and newspaper coverage, and even bigger crowds at the month-end Waldo-palooza festivities. And of course, Candlewick couldn’t be happier that Waldo titles appeared on national and regional ABA bestseller lists over 80 times in July,” said Elise Supovitz, director of field sales at Candlewick.
The bookseller who originated the concept, Carol Chittenden, owner of Eight Cousins on Cape Cod, was among those pleased with this year’s iteration. “Waldo earned his stripes again this year, and it looks like he’ll be stepping out in Falmouth again next year by popular demand,” she said. “Find Waldo Local in Vancouver was even more fun than last year,” said Becky Milner, owner of Vintage Books in Vancouver, Wash. “Participating merchants were excited. And we’re hoping those who are not yet members of Buy Vancouver are discovering what can happen when we do work together.”
Find Waldo Local enabled one new bookseller to meet the neighbors. “The Where’s Waldo campaign was a great way for us to get to know our neighboring merchants right away, as we had a grand opening on June 20. Then 10 days later our Where’s Waldo kickoff. This was a great campaign,” said Sharon Hoshida, co-owner of Granada Books: A Community Bookstore, Santa Barbara, Calif.
At press time, Candlewick was unable to confirm if Waldo will return again next year. But there are a lot of booksellers – and kids – hoping that the answer is “yes.”
For an extensive selection of photos from Waldo parades, searches, and parties, from Maine to California, read on.