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By Allison MacLachlan
December 15, 2011
3:50 PM

Filed under News

Booksellers optimistic heading in to holidays

With the countdown to Christmas approaching the single digits, Q&Q checked in with booksellers across Canada to gauge this year’s holiday sales vibe. Booksellers were generally optimistic, all pegging 2011 Christmas sales at least equal to those of last year, and many anticipating a better season overall.

“If we stay on track, we’ll see an increase over last year, which is not what I would have expected,” says Jennifer Fournier, co-owner of Chat Noir Books in New Liskeard, Ontario, adding that Chat Noir’s Web store, which allows customers to browse for books online, reserve titles for pickup, and make wish lists, has likely been key to the store’s success.

Greater support of small businesses – perhaps a result of the Occupy movement, Fournier suggests – may also be helping holiday sales. Many of Chat Noir’s top sellers this season are regional titles like Lois Pollard’s Highway Book Shop: Northern Ontario’s Unexpected Treasure (White Mountain Publications) and Hap Wilson’s Temagami: A Wilderness Paradise (Boston Mills Press).

Holiday sales have also been stronger than usual at Mabel’s Fables in Toronto. Manager Melissa Bourdon-King credits the spike to the closure this year of The Flying Dragon Bookshop and the relocation of The Sleuth of Baker Street. “It’s sad for them, but it’s been positive for us,” she says. “We’ve definitely had a much busier season.”

At Munro’s Books in Victoria, holiday sales have been about the same as last year, says assistant manager Jessica Walker, except hardback fiction sales, which jumped 10 per cent in November. Walker says Munro’s is doing especially well with local author Esi Edugyan’s Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning novel, Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers), and the coffee-table tome The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver (Harbour Publishing).

Holiday sales at Bookmark in Halifax are also comparable to last year’s. Manager Michael Hamm points to Ami McKay’s The Virgin Cure (Knopf Canada) as a big holiday seller, thanks to local events and word of mouth promotion. In non-fiction, Harry Thurston’s The Atlantic Coast: A Natural History (Greystone Books) has been equally popular.

Hamm predicts Bookmark will see a sales rush in the coming days. “Normally it’s a gradual buildup, but this year it’s been stop and start,” he says. “I think the last week is going to be kind of crazy.”

Ian Donker, manager of Book City in Toronto, is of a similar mind. Because Christmas falls on a Sunday, he says he is gearing up for a last-minute rush on Dec. 23 and 24. “People feel they still have the Friday and Saturday to do their shopping,” he says. “Next week is just going to be wild.”

At Audreys Books in Edmonton, owners Steve and Sharon Budnarchuck expect to come out ahead of last year’s holiday sales, which were slow due to extremely cold weather. Still, they are proceeding with caution. “We’re being very careful with inventory. Gone are the days where you ordered a book and stacked it up to the roof,” says Sharon, who is making small, frequent orders from wholesalers.

This year, popular titles at Audreys include books by Alberta authors, such as Janice MacDonald’s Hang Down Your Head (Ravenstone), Marina Endicott’s The Little Shadows (Doubleday Canada), and Lynn Coady’s The Antagonist (House of Anansi Press).

Bestsellers mentioned across the board include Half-Blood Blues; Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press); Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table (McClelland & Stewart); Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster); Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (Random House Canada); Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot (Knopf Canada); and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (Bond Street/Random House). Most booksellers said they are scrambling to maintain stock of sleeper hit Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Doubleday Canada) and P.D. James’s recent release, Death Comes to Pemberley (Knopf Canada).

For kids, booksellers say best-selling holiday titles include Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavour (HarperCollins Canada); Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races (Scholastic); and Barbara Reid’s Picture a Tree (Scholastic Canada). Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy continue to be blockbusters.

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