High street shines as festive sales ignite

High street shines as festive sales ignite

Magical book covers brought to life, life-size reindeer sleighs and Christmas trees made from books are among the striking festive window displays created by UK booksellers to entice customers into stores this month, as the key trading season steps up a gear.

Booksellers have reported that footfall surged in the first weekend of December as Christmas shoppers received their pay cheques and began buying Christmas presents.

To help lure customers away from using online retailers and into bricks-and-mortar shops to buy presents, Tim Morris, co-owner of Booka Bookshop in Oswestry, has dedicated his shop window to The Invisible Kingdom by Rob Ryan (Random House), with a striking fairy-light-illuminated re-creation of the kingdom framed by red curtains mimicking the book’s cover. Morris said: “We wanted to stop people in their tracks when they walked along the high street. And it has certainly worked, we have had a lot of attention for it. We always theme our Christmas windows around a book, rather than something festive-related.”

Morris added that the bookshop was running a “12 Books of Christmas” promotion and doing well with Two Girls, One on Each Knee: A History of Cryptic Crosswords by Alan Connor, the Guardian’s crossword writer (Particular Books) and A Murmuration of Starlings: The Collective Nouns of Animals and Birds by Steve Palin (Merlin Unwin Books). “We are absolutely confident about Christmas. There are some fantastic books out this year,” Morris said.

Rosamund de la Hey, co-owner of The Main Street Trading Company in St Boswells in the Scottish Borders has also been inspired by the concept of “theatre retail” and built a life-size reindeer sleigh driven by the ”Mainstreet Hare” (from the company’s logo), which runs across four of the bookshop’s five large windows. De la Hey said: “The idea is that the Mainstreet Hare is driving the sleigh to Mainstreet.”

She added: “ All sales are up on last year, with book sales up about 8% year on year, so it feels like steady trade this week. It certainly helps that the sun is shining brightly and no snow has appeared so far.”

De la Hay named The Great Tapestry of Scotland (Birlinn Ltd) by Susan Mansfield and Alistair Moffat; Breaking the Spell by Lari Don, illustrated by Cate James (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books); Flip Flap Farm by Axel Scheffler (Nosy Crow); and Bethlehem: A Christmas Poem by Carol Ann Duffy (Picador) as some of the shop’s bestsellers.

Blackwell’s in Oxford is attracting customers with a large Christmas tree made out of books in its shop window to highlight its “Beautiful Books” marketing campaign. Shop manager Euan Hirst said: “Sales are pretty good and definitely starting to build. It is early days but some titles have already popped their heads above the parapet. Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor (John Murray) is going to have a huge Christmas; Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska (Big Picture Press) is sure to be one our top children’s titles; and Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federele (Running Press) is a till-point pick up that is being, er, picked up.”

Waterstones’ “The Gift of Reading” Christmas message is taking centre stage in many of its shop windows, with the company’s Piccadilly flagship adorned with the poster and a garland with fairy lights. Waterstones press manager Jon Howells said: “Alex Ferguson (My Autobiography, Hodder & Stoughton) probably won’t stay at number one as long as he stayed at Man U, but he’s having a damn good crack at it. Morrissey (Penguin) has just been knocked off the number one non-fiction paperback slot by Philomena (by Martin Sixsmith, Pan Macmillan) proving good films can still influence book sales. In fiction, it’s interesting to see two of our most reliable and prolific writers, Terry Pratchett and Ian Rankin, joined in our top five hardback fiction by the less than prolific Helen Fielding and Donna Tartt. Absence makes the reader grow fonder, it seems.”

Foyles is marking the Christmas season with giant paper snowflakes in its window alongside its “It’s Thought That Counts” campaign. Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying at Foyles, said the company saw footfall increase 19% across all its stores and sales increase 33% week on week after launching its 20% off “Christmas Comes Early” offer in early December.

Sutcliffe added: “Our Christmas campaign has now been rolled out across the London Underground network. It’s encouraging to see so many of the titles we’re highlighting appearing in our top 10 bestsellers. We’ve seen great sales from Nina Stibbe’s Love, Nina as well as Letters of Note—it seems letter-writing is making a big comeback this Christmas. We’re looking ahead to a busy few weeks.”