Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"What Happened to Our Holiday Market?" and Other Questions.

Stacie's almost done getting the holiday newsletter ready for the printer. And Jason has help train a lot of new booksellers all while juggling buying and writing an ever more complicated staffing schedule. And Conrad's picked up a good number of school accounts . And Amie's worn at least seven hats (including buying kids' books), but most notably, she's paying our bills with more efficiency than  I could ever muster. And our booksellers, both new and old (Anne, Greg, Halley, Hannah, Jane, Jannis, Mel, Nick, Pam, Paul, Sharon), have stepped up to all sorts of challenges with knowledge, enthusiasm, and grace. I could list what everyone is doing but that would be a bit of a detour regarding this post's intent.

But Team Decorate sure did a great job getting up the trees and hanging snowflakes.

Do we all sound exhausted? I don't mean to give that impression, but it's been a crazy autumn. While talking about how I'd handle fall 2013, Amie noted that I said in 2011 that I would be more careful about 2012, and then we wound up with one week with ten events. Yikes.

I'm excited that we made it through all our fall events with only one major cancellation (Barney Saltzberg at schools, but we're hoping that is rescheduled, adding a public component) and generally, we had a wonderful schedule that made a lot of folks (attendees, authors, publishers, booksellers) happy. Did we get the turnout we hoped for on every event? Most met expectations, but when you do a lot of programming, sometimes you exceed those expectations and other times you're disappointed.

And we got the Aaron Boyd holiday bag done and Dwellephant's monster tee too!

But for my part, there are some things that have slipped through the cracks. I hemmed and hawed on bringing on Kobo devices and really haven't emotionally wrapped myself around the idea of our new partnership. I told the booksellers I didn't have a good story to tell customers, and of course Stacie banged out our message in about five minutes, so that's no excuse.

And I fell down on the Small Business Saturday promotions too. And several publisher partnerships. And lots of other paperwork. There are only so many hours in a day, alas. And like many humans, I sometimes make the wrong decisions about priorities.

This year our friend Angela, who organized our holiday market, found her hands full with other projects, and on top of that, we all know that the yield for apples was down something like 90%. I thought about putting something together ourselves, using many of our friends and customers who have side businesses selling their products (there's a lot of jewelry floating around, for example), and if you had asked me in the summer whether we could do this, I would have said yes.

But on top of juggling priorities, I looked around and saw that the number of holiday markets in Milwaukee has grown almost exponentially since 2009, when we first pioneered the idea. And it turns out that with our increase in business, I started worrying that the balance between bringing new folks into the store and the shopping experience for folks who planned to shop at a bookstore was getting out of whack, particularly as we took neither a fee nor a percentage from our vendors.

And every year, we've added display tables to the store, making it more difficult to find good spots for the vendors. And while the natural open area was in our center back in our convertible lounging/event space, all the vendors want to be by the front door.

So this year we're leaving the markets to our friends at Art Vs. Craft, Discovery World, Local First Milwaukee (where yes, we'll have a table) and the numerous churches and schools in the area that are hosting these events.

And as I always say, who knows, maybe next year. Happy Thanksgiving. Hope to have a new post up on Friday. We're closed tomorrow, but will have regular hours through the weekend.

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