U.S. retail sales were down .4% last month, according to advance figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce yesterday. Cold weather contributed to weak numbers for the past two months; December 2013 saw a decline of .1%. This week’s wintery blast, which began in the South and blew through the Northeast on Thursday dumped as much as a foot of snow in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York—and will likely mean a repeat of disappointing figures for February. Indeed, sales of print units fell 5% in the week ended February 9, 2014 compared to the same week in 2013 at outlets report to Nielsen BookScan.
Already the snow has led to canceled events and store closures, some for more than a day during Valentine’s Week. A few enterprising booksellers tried to turn yesterday’s Nor’easter into an asset. Nonesuch Books & Cards offered a “Beat the Valentine’s Storm” coupon on the Facebook pages for both its South Portland and Biddeford, Maine, stores earlier this week. In yesterday’s weekly e-newsletter from Washington, D.C.’s Politics and Prose, owners Brad Graham and Lissa Muscatine suggested some “great reads” with snow in the title, ranging from Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro to Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman and David Guterson’s debut novel, Snow Falling on Cedars. The bookstore closed early yesterday and canceled an event with Iris Krasnow, author of Sex After. . . The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore closed for the day as did nearby Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley, Md., which invited customers instead to celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend with them.
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Ashville, N.C., tried to keep its regular hours, but closed at 2p.m. on Wednesday ahead of the snow storm. Thursday it opened two hours late and closed at dark. The cold was also a problem, and the store canceled its Mystery Book Club meeting on Monday night because of it. Weather forced it to cancel its Sci Fi YA panel yesterday as well, which was to have included Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman, authors of These Broken Stars; Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate series; and Lissa Price, author of Enders. Bookseller/book buyer Caroline Christopoulos described yesterday as “reflectively quiet” and said that business was “quite slow.”
At Bound to Be Read in Atlanta, which was closed on Wednesday and opened late yesterday, bookseller Samantha Severin, said that Thursday business was “alright. It’s been pretty steady.” Several stores, including Atlanta feminist bookstore Charis Books & More and Park Road Books in Charlotte, closed early on Tuesday and stayed closed until today. “We hope everyone is warm and safe and enjoying a good book,” Charis posted on its Facebook page. The store was able to reschedule what was to have been its Tuesday night event with Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door, to March.
Others who are more used to dealing with snow, stayed open. “Snow be damned,” wrote WORD Brooklyn on its Facebook page. The store went ahead with its Comedy Night with Seth Olenick Thursday evening. In a display of books to mark the weather at its Jersey City store, WORD included both Ezra Jack Keats' The Snow Day and Les Miserables.