Bookshops failing the festive test

<p>Wander around any of the big booksellers at the moment and Christmas is<i> sort of</i> in full swing.</p>
<p>Sorry strands of silver tinsel have been drizzled around gondolas crammed with books. Windows are chock-full of would-be must-buy books and, if you&rsquo;re fortunate, you might even catch a hint of bunting at the checkouts as tired sales associates eagerly wait to serve you while sporting Santa hats. Everything therefore in the man with the sleigh&rsquo;s favourite colours.</p>
<p>The only real exception to the beloved red and gold theme is Blackwells, which has opted for an ice-blue window scheme: a theme that is carried through in-store. But this is actually one of the better efforts from our high street booksellers and certainly outshines the thoroughly lacklustre effort that is the Borders offering.</p>
<p>Borders seems to typify why Christmas and bookselling frequently make unhappy bedfellows. The lonely looking plush mini-polar bears that stare out at you from the windows of its branches and then appear on various shelves around the interior, are such a below-average attempt at raising seasonal spirits that shoppers must be left wondering why bother.</p>
<p>In many bookselling instances it would perhaps be better to adopt a Scrooge-like attitude to Christmas than to give the appearance of doing something under sufferance.</p>
<p>The point is that the pagan midwinter festival is based largely on excess and most of us carry this picture around with us when we go shopping. This is the time of year when shoppers will pull out the financial stops, providing they are given sufficient reason for doing so. Beyond the bookselling arena, most retailers seem to have little difficulty in grasping this elementary fact and windows and interiors are full-to-bursting with inspired evidence that December 25th is just around the corner.</p>
<p>And for booksellers the solution seems simple. Take a walk around the competition and see how Christmas is done. Competition at this time of year, by the way, means almost every other shop. Potential book buyers have no shortage of alternatives and it really is the loudest shout that is likely to yield the most positive results. There are plenty of free lessons on offer with perhaps the most obvious being that Christmas is not about filling a window with product. A little imagination, rather than a big budget, is all that is required. Yet at this vital point in the retail calendar, it appears that many booksellers throw in the towel even before things get under way.&nbsp;</p>