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Ruminator Books is attempting to fend off bankruptcy by becoming a community-owned bookstore, offering shares of common stock for public sale to residents of Minnesota. If Ruminator does not raise enough money by the end of January to "make the store well-stocked and vital," it will close. Non-residents can make cash donations to the cause. For more information, please call Pearl or David at 651/699-0587, e-mail wanda@ruminator.com, or stop by Ruminator Books, 1648 Grand Avenue, St. Paul.

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Feature

Books As Gifts Make Sense

BookSense.com's New Design and Gift Card Program Feed Strong Bookselling Season
Just in time to make it easier for consumers to buy books as gifts for the holidays, BookSense.com has unveiled its redesigned website. Among other changes, the new design helps book shoppers support their local independent bookstores by making it easy to click through to indies’ websites.

"BookSense.com used to be a shopping site; now it's a portal or referral site," says Len Vlahos, director of Book Sense. “Now we can use our energies and resources to continue to develop individual store template sites rather than our own."

Now, when customers click on a link for information about a specific book, they must enter their zip code and are directed to the site for the nearest of the 240 participating BookSense.com booksellers. At that point, browsers will be able to search for specific titles and authors at the store site and order them.

The BookSense.com site continues to promote programs such as the revamped Book Sense Gift Card (which can also be used for online purchases) and offers a link to find which stores accept the gift card. In an attempt to get more bookstores participating in the Book Sense Gift Card program, Book Sense recently reached an agreement with the program’s transaction processor to lower the minimum for generic gift card orders from 250 cards to 100.

The gift cards themselves are credit card-sized, with magnetic strip and bar codes. Even though they are more expensive to administer than the old-fashioned paper certificates, Book Sense says they are fast becoming the universally accepted form of gift certificate. Last year over 70% of all gift certificates sold were said to be in the card format, and statistics show that gift card sales are at least 15%-20% higher than certificate sales. Some stores have reported 30%-50% increases after the switch. (For Gift Card details and FAQ, visit the BookSense site.) At the time of this writing, the number of stores using the new gift cards was 150 and growing, of the 1,200+ stores that participate in Book Sense.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) seems to agree, predicting that gift cards will be an extremely popular item on consumers’ shopping lists this holiday season. A recent NRF "Gift Card Survey" found that 69.9 percent of consumers plan to buy gift cards of some kind this holiday, spending an average of $34.24 per card.

NRF projects that total holiday gift card sales will reach $17.24 billion, which, the association said, would account for nearly 8 percent of all holiday sales. "Gift cards are a great selection for the person who has everything," NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin noted in a statement. "They are more convenient than the gift certificates of years’ past and they’re no longer considered the ‘lazy man’s gift’ -- people love to get them." In an earlier survey, 48.4 percent of consumers said they would like to receive gift cards this year, up from 41.3 percent in 2002.

Many participating BookSense retailers echo these sentiments with enthusiastic comments about gift cards.

Collette Morgan of Wild Rumpus Books in Minneapolis says that gift cards sales have doubled that of paper certificates during the first two weeks of November over the same period last year. Morgan attributes gift cards' popularity, in part, to "kids think plastic is much cooler than paper…. Kids think it's empowering … the mystique of the credit card."

At Chesterfield Books in Chesterfield Turnpike, Michigan, Constance Geverink said that she displays the cards on endcaps using the gift card presenter that came with her card order -- a display opportunity not possible with paper gift certificates.

Andrew Nettell of Arches Book Company in Moab, Utah agrees, pointing out that until the cards are activated they have no value and you can display them anywhere in the store. "As we get close to Christmas, I think they'll fly off the shelves. We have them in 20 different areas around the store. We have them at the cash register, gift wrap, near the door, on endcaps, and with the greeting cards.”

Some stores use the cards to run quick & easy holiday promotions where customers receive a $5 gift card for every $50 they spend.

The NRF also had good news for publishers and booksellers in its 2003 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, published on November 17. The survey revealed that 60.8 of consumers intended to purchase books, CDs, and DVDs as a holiday gift. Only apparel -- at 62.2 percent – rated higher on shopping lists.

NRF continues to project that holiday sales will increase 5.7 percent this year to $217.4 billion, which would be the largest increase since 1999. The survey polled 6,551 consumers from November 6 through November 12, 2003.

If these factors do come together it will be a banner year for book sales. Happy Bookselling Holidays!


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