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Publishers Weekly Children's Features

Book Characters Dress Up Store Windows
Cindi Di Marzo -- 1/17/00
Department stores and specialty outlets find that children's books are a good source of inspiration and sales

Favorite book characters -- and a new bestselling picture book -- were the subjects of store windows this past holiday season.
Eloise, that attention-hungry prankster created by Kay Thompson, was the focus of a major reissue campaign by Simon & Schuster, and made the first window appearance of the season in October at FAO Schwarz's New York City store. FAO Schwarz has the license for an exclusive line of Eloise products, which were showcased in a fall catalogue sporting Eloise on the cover. According to Tracy van Straaten, associate director of publicity for Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, "The timing of the windows was key," because the display was put up to coincide with a gala Eloise event at the Plaza Hotel, right across the street. The windows remained up until mid-November, when illustrator Hilary Knight did a segment on CBS's Early Show. The Early Show's studio is located next door to FAO Schwarz, and one of two Eloise segments was filmed live from the store.

Right after Thanksgiving, Olive, the Other Reindeer, star of J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh's book of the same title, graced the windows in Nordstrom's at a number of the store's locations, just in time for Chronicle's release of an Olive book-and-plush package, which has sold 45,000 units to date. The previous year, Walden had featured Olive in a major holiday sales initiative. The combined attention to Olive from these sources has spurred sales of the book to about 330,000 to date, with just over 130,000 sold in 1999. Sales of the Olive plush alone, which was released in fall 1998, now total 100,000.

In December, Auntie Claus, a new picture book by Elise Primavera, provided visual inspiration for Saks Fifth Avenue's windows in New York City. Harcourt/Silver Whistle published the book in October and, to date, has shipped over 100,000 copies. Further fueling sales of Auntie Claus were its selection by Rosie O'Donnell as one of her Rosie's Readers picks, and news that Nickelodeon Films has optioned the book for a feature film. The windows will travel to Saks stores in other cities over the next few years.

And finally, coinciding with the release of the Stuart Little movie in December, FAO Schwarz designed three-dimensional, animated window-box units featuring Stuart Little, developing a unique storyline based on The Night Before Christmas. HarperCollins publicity manager Kim Bouchard reported that sales for Stuart Little classic edition formats have increased 248% over last year, with sales of seven movie tie-in titles, in various formats, selling "extremely well." FAO carried a limited, upscale line of Stuart Little merchandise, which is also doing very well, according to Tom Crossman, v-p of visual at FAO Schwarz.

Another Harper title, Santa Calls by William Joyce, published in 1993, was the theme for the windows at Saks's New York City store in 1994, and has circulated to other locations in subsequent years. Bouchard said that sales of Santa Calls have been consistent from year to year, which Harper attributes at least in part to the traveling Saks windows.

Next week, Saks will unveil yet another window display drawn from a children's picture book: The Fairies by Suza Scalora. Published by HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, The Fairies features photographs of otherworldly creatures taken by fashion photographer Scalora. These creatures will be re-created for the windows by Saks designers in collaboration with Scalora.

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