Literati, the Austin, Tex., subscription book box and online book club company, has purchased Follett Book Fairs. The fairs will be rebranded Literati Book Fairs and will continue to service PreK-8 schools around the country.
The fairs first launched in 2017 with 180 fairs and then quickly expanded. For its most recent year of operations, the 2019-2020 school year, Follett had some 5,700 fairs booked. But by the end of March 2020, 2,000 of those fairs had canceled because of the spread of Covid-19. Last September, Follett announced it was closing the business because it couldn't sustain the losses caused by the pandemic and would not hold any fairs after November 15, 2021. Overall, Follett Book Fairs hosted 7,500 events.
Along with the acquisition of the brand, Literati is acquiring inventory, the use of three existing fulfillment centers – in Dallas, Redlands, Calif., and Elgin, Ill. -- and retaining 23 people, including key management staff.
“The appeal for us was the high quality of the product,” said Jessica Ewing, founder and CEO of Literati. “Their product was really high quality and I liked that the focus of the fair was on books and not on non-book products or toys.”
Ewing said Literati will be merging the two cultures of the companies, including inventory. Follett's titles are more geared toward popular books for mainstream reader than Literati, which has focused on offering a widely diverse selection of children’s titles, often from smaller publishing houses. “We’ll bring the best of both worlds to the fairs.”
The business is already up and running and schools in select cities in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) as well as in Texas, and Southern California may immediately begin booking a Literati Book Fair for the spring 2022 semester. Schools in the Southeast can also book now for the 2022-2023 school year. Schools will be given multiple incentive options, including Follett School Solutions’ most popular profit option: Titlewave gift certificates.
Ewing noted that one attraction of the Follett fairs for Literati is the ease of set up, which can be done by two people in 30 minutes. “The fairs are not labor intensive,” she said. Ewing also believes Literati’s expertise in its existing business will be felt in the production of digital book fairs for schools, which have become a necessity during the pandemic. “Online sales and interaction has been our core business, so we feel we can really make an impact there and create an even better eFair experience for students, parents and teachers,” Ewing said.
With Covid still raging across much of the country, schools may be reticent to hold in-person events, but Ewing noted that the fairs follow CDC protocols and all required protective measures, from social distancing to disinfection of high-touch surfaces.
Ewing and her team put together the deal to purchase the book fair business quickly, closing it in just three months. “It’s a natural expansion of our mandate, which is to support literacy and the education of young readers. This is a great way for us to uplevel our business and show educators what we can do.” Ewing cited the PW article about the closing of the fairs and the circulation of a Change.org petition to “save Follett Book Fairs” as inspiration for her initial interest in acquiring the business.
The time could be right for Literati to enter the book fair business; market leader Scholastic recently reported that sales in its book fair business rose faster than expected in the quarter ended November 30.
On behalf of Follett, Britten Follett, CEO of Follett Content Solutions, said, “We are proud of the book fair business we built in such a short period of time, especially in spite of the setbacks caused by the pandemic. We are thrilled to pass the torch to Literati for the team to build upon what we started. Literati’s commitment to fostering a love of reading in children makes it the perfect company to take the reins, especially as they grow into the book fair space. It’s a natural progression of what Jessica and her team have built over the past five years.”