The first Independent Bookstore Day held on Saturday May 2 was a success, with some of the roughly 400 participating stores already planning for next year. Several booksellers contacted by PW compared sales for the day to those during the biggest retailing season of the year: December.
Less than an hour after opening, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., beat its sales from the previous year. It was one of at least 25 bookstores cited by IBD organizer Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, as surpassing last year’s sales within the first three hours. And Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn., reported that sales rose as much as two-and-a half times those of a normal Saturday.
Other stores built sales over the course of the day. Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., for example, said it passed last year’s figures by 3 pm. The store’s customer count more than doubled year-over-year, from 267 to 544, and sales were up 46%. The store hid galleys on its bookshelves with notes inside inviting customers to keep the copy. It also worked with neighboring businesses and offered discounts for those who brought in receipts. Harvard Book Store, also in Cambridge, saw sales rise 55% and had a line of 20 customers when it opened.
In Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a proclamation declaring May 2 Independent Bookstore Day in the city, Suzy Takacs, owner of the Book Cellar, was happy to see sales equal those of last July’s citywide IBD.
San Francisco's Green Apple Books said sales were 75% higher than a normal Saturday in May, according to co-owner Pete Mulvihill. As to whether Green Apple would participate next year, Mulvihill replied, “Hell yeah. We generally don’t need an excuse to celebrate books. But this combination of unique books and art pieces and well-planned events adds up to a vibrant and financially lucrative combination.”
Farther up the coast, where 17 Seattle booksellers joined forces in a local celebration, booksellers said that they would definitely do it again. “Our goal was to have a day-long party and that’s exactly what it felt like,” said Robert Sindelar, managing partner of Third Place Books. Sales at the Lake Forest Park store were up 21% and sales at the Ravenna store were up 34%. “My guess is, once we have a recap from all the stores, we will find that many had new customers. We certainly noticed that here. I do think the collective marketing we did brought a new level of awareness to the day that none of us could have achieved individually.”
Of course, not all stores saw jumps in sales or foot traffic. Books on Broad in Camden, S.C., was one store which reported no uptick in sales. Nonetheless, co-owner Laurie Funderburk said she was glad to have participated. “It certainly was a great opportunity to highlight independent bookstores.”
Although sales were up at the Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, Tex., manager Claudia Maceo couldn’t be sure how much was from the farmer’s market on her street, which is always a big draw. This year she decided to start small with IBD. But she said, “we’re definitely going to see how we can expand next year. I love the party aspect of it.”
Canadian booksellers also found much to celebrate the first Saturday in May, which was dubbed Canadian Authors for Indies Day. At Another Story Bookshop in Toronto, which hosted 25 authors, sales were triple an average Saturday, and store traffic was about double.
Mary-Ann Yazedijian, co-president of the B.C. Booksellers Association and manager of Book Warehouse’s Main Street location in Vancouver, which hosted 12 authors, is already thinking about next year. “We were focusing on trying to get media, getting bookstores on board, and contacting authors. And I think what we could do better is to let customers know this is happening,” she said.
While most stores made the May 2 date work, some said it was less than optimum. New Orleans booksellers, for example, are holding their IBD celebration on May 9, because the earlier date conflicted with Jazz Fest.
Atomic Books in Baltimore, which has celebrated Free Comic Book Day on May 2 for years, the date also posed a problem. Co-owner Rachel Whang compared the overlap to having Christmas and Black Friday on the same day. Nonetheless, she said would participate in IBD again.
Advertising was another concern for many booksellers; many said that next year they plan to get the word out about IBD earlier. “I’m going to press for more national media," said Anne Holman of the King’s English in Salt Lake City. "The word is not out, except for people who are active on social media,” said Thea Kotroba, a manager at Chester County Book Company in West Chester, Pa.
Despite the hiccups, the fact that booksellers are already working on ways to improve IBD is one sign the event could become an annual one. As NCIBA’s Landon noted, “First indications are [that] we have a hit on our hands.”