Holiday 2021 Book Sales Up from Previous Two Years: A look at popular local books and what drove sales
Independent bookseller Woozles was only in its new location on Shirley Street in Halifax for a few weeks before Christmas. Manager Lisa Doucet says they moved from their location on Birmingham Street in late October and opened in their new spot November 20. While that impacted book sales, Doucet says they “still had a pretty great December.”
“We’re actually up over last year, for at least the month of December,” Doucet says. “So, we’re feeling pretty good about Christmas season overall.”
Doucet says staff relied on social media channels to get the word out about the new location and the holiday season. The new space brought in new customers, too, particularly those in the neighbourhood around Shirley Street. Doucet says she can’t say what books stood out as big sellers, but their local titles are always big hits with customers, regardless of the season.
“We still have a local and a Canadian section, but the setup is just different from our previous location,” Doucet says. “And even still, those were books that we reordered constantly throughout the season, that customers came in looking specifically for, and that they responded well to when we were selling them.”
While the new spot is popular, Doucet said customers are using their online store, including those customers who don’t live locally but are buying for people who do. And those customers are interested in the local book section, too.
“Online sales are more important, more prominent than they ever were before,” Doucet says. “But in-person shopping is still bigger.”
At other independent booksellers, Lori Cheverie, president of the Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (AIBA) says its members always support the gift guides produced by Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association, and this past year was no different.
“Sales at independents in general are up over 2020 and 2019 and it’s well known that Independents sell more Canadian titles than get sold through other channels,” Cheverie said. “The buy-local movement has definitely been credited with initially directing people in our direction. Once they find us, they realize how wonderful and unique Indie bookstores are so continue to support us.”
Meanwhile, Indigo’s 22 stores across Atlantic Canada transformed their front of stores to include “Discover Your Community” tables featuring titles from Atlantic publishers’ #GiftAtlantic promotion on display. Indigo started those tables in all 124 of its stores in April 2021, but focused on #GiftAtlantic for its Atlantic Canadian stores for the holidays.
“Every store had a unique display of #GiftAtlantic titles from October through December and the Holiday Gift Guides, which included these titles, were featured on the table with supporting #GiftAtlantic signage,” says Madison Downey, a spokesperson at Indigo.
For customers who shopped online, Indigo also supported the promotion online with a #GiftAtlantic shop where customers could check out a range of Atlantic titles. Shoppers could search the site via menus broken down by region to help them find titles from across the country.
This is year two for the #GiftAtlantic campaign. Alex Liot, Chief Marketing Officer of Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association, says the campaign started in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Liot says the association was working on two other projects, including one to build a digital platform and another to launch a rebrand with a marketing campaign. The association also announced its #ReadAtlantic campaign that summer.
“That went really well, and it sort of evolved into the #GiftAtlantic books campaign,” Liot says.
He said the four provinces came in with additional emergency support, so they did a big marketing campaign with billboards, commercials, and lots of digital.
“It was very successful,” he says. “We were able to use that to help recover the year. It was up 12 percent over 2019.”
That set up the 2021 #GiftAtlantic campaign, which started in July. Liot says they let booksellers know in August what books were on the way for the holiday season. He says that was a great co-benefit because the retailers did a thorough review of almost 180 books.
Some of those books were promoted through the four gift guides, one for each province. Liot says those guides represent about 50 percent of the campaign, with many promoted on digital platforms.
“That gave us the opportunity to put a lot of books in, which really raised the total awareness,” Liot says.
A quick Twitter search of the #GiftAtlantic hashtag shows that a lot of Atlantic Canadian authors used it to promote their own titles during the holiday season.
“We’re trying to create this unified committee,” Liot says. “Read Atlantic is everybody. Bookstores, librarians, authors. Anybody that wants to be involved in that community. The biggest challenge with local books is simply discovery and awareness. I love seeing when authors jump on board.”
As for popular Atlantic titles this season, Downey says Indigo customers had a variety of interests, including cookbooks, biographies, fiction, history and games. And local books were especially popular.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an even greater interest in reading local and also in discovering local,” Downey says. “Indigo has seen an increased interest in local travel, outdoor and hiking guides, bird watching guides and more, as customers look for opportunities to get outside and explore their communities.”
Downey says some of the best-selling Atlantic Canadian authors for the holiday season were Mary Janet MacDonald (Tunes and Wooden Spoons), Len Wagg and Angela Mombourquette (We Rise Again), Lesley Crewe (I Kid You Not! and The Spoon Stealer), John Bell (Oak Island Illustrated), Nicholas Guitard (Waterfalls of New Brunswick), Ray Mackey (Chasing Newfoundland), Ted Pritchard (Forgotten Nova Scotia), and Theresa Williams (Lexicon Volume 20).
While it’s months away from Christmas 2022, Doucet said she and Woozles staff are looking forward to the season, after spending the last two dominated by the move to a new location and, of course, a pandemic.
“With two very giant things like that hanging over our heads, it felt very difficult to plan, and to really predict what things would be like,” Doucet said. “So, I know that we, like everyone else in the entire world, are not able to predict what Covid is going to look like and how that will shape our year. But we do know we are in a great space and we no longer have that. That makes the coming holiday season really exciting. It feels like there will be more room for being creative and whatever the world holds.”