Total sales at Half Price Books were up 20% last year over 2020, said Kathy Doyle Thomas, chief strategy office of Half Price. The chain, which sells a mixture of new merchandise and used books, had struggled with store closures in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and once fully reopened it was forced to limit the amount of on-site used book buying it could do to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The company, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has 124 stores in 19 states and has, when fully staffed, more than 3,000 employees. The chain opened two new stores in 2020 – Belle Meade in Nashville and Meridian, near Boise, Idaho. It closed three stores during 2020 and 2021 – Montrose and Rice Village in Houston, and its Camelback store in Phoenix.
The chain's top-selling books for 2021 were Dune by Frank Herbert, A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.
Thomas noted supply chain problems resulted in the store receiving fewer shipments of some product and she pointed to running low on such things as children’s activity kits. Items that could be sourced domestically and shipped directly from suppliers, such as cards, were in abundant supply and sold well, she said. “With the supply chain issues, our buyers started scouring for domestic deals, so our stores still had a great product mix of books, music and movies for the holiday shopping season,” said Thomas. “We’re so appreciative of all of our vendors who worked with us to help us still have a successful holiday.”
In December 2021, workers at three Half Price Books locations in Minnesota won union recognition from a National Labor Relations Board election, making it the first union at the national chain Half Price Books. In January, a fourth Minnesota location also voted to unionize.
Looking ahead, Thomas said the chain is again looking at hosting events, but primarily at its Dallas flagship location. “We are using online ticket sales to control the crowd size. We hope to bring in more great authors as the year goes on,” she said.