Thanksgiving weekend was kind to some independent bookstores

Overall, Black Friday sales are said to have dropped this year, but some independent bookstores reported strong sales on Friday and Saturday of the holiday weekend, even as they celebrated the Indies First bookstore initiative.

Evan Vucci/AP
President Barack Obama (second from l.) was one of the patrons who visited an independent bookstore (in this case, the Washington D.C. store Politics and Prose) on Small Business Saturday.

Black Friday was said to be gloomy for many retailers this year, but it was a different story in the world of independent bookstores. Some reported very brisk sales in the weekend following Thanksgiving, particularly on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 29), which was also the day when many booksellers participated in the Indies First bookstore initiative.

According to the National Retail Federation, online and in-store sales for Black Friday decreased 11 percent overall. But for independent bookstores this weekend also marked the second year of the Indies First initiative, in which authors are encouraged to come to bookstores on Small Business Saturday and work as volunteer staff members for the day. Carolyn Anbar of New Jersey’s Watchung Booksellers told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that sales for Friday were three times what a typical Friday would have been (the store called it Festivus Friday and offered a discount to customers). Meanwhile, staff at North Carolina’s Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café told Shelf Awareness that sales on Friday were up 11 percent and Saturday sales were the same as last year’s Indies First celebration.

Meanwhile, President Obama delighted the staff of Washington DC independent bookseller Politics & Prose by turning up on Small Business Saturday with his daughters Sasha and Malia and buying 17 books. Some of the books bought were holiday presents, Obama reportedly said.

Some in the indie world weren’t pleased last year when Obama visited an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee in 2013 and White House deputy press secretary Amy Brundage called the facility “a perfect example of the company that is investing in American workers and creating good, high-wage jobs.” However, Obama has also made a point throughout his presidency of patronizing independent bookstores. Politics and Prose has enjoyed more than one presidential visit, as has A Bunch of Grapes in Martha's Vineyard. Prairie Lights in Iowa City also was the site a surprise presidential visit in 2010.

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