It's Gift Card Season

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The electronic Book Sense Gift Card Program continues to get the thumbs up from booksellers, who reported high gift card sales and easy processing when they recently spoke to Bookselling This Week. Booksellers' experiences reflect a consumer trend reported in a recent National Retail Federation "Gift Card Survey," which found that the majority (69.9 percent) of consumers plan to buy gift cards this holiday, spending an average of $34.24 per card.

In Peterborough, New Hampshire, Toadstool Bookshop manager Willard Williams told BTW that the store would soon be reordering cards. Williams estimated that in a two-week period the Peterborough and Milford locations of Toadstool sold at least 100 cards each, with fewer sold in Keene. "We have them sitting on the counter. They're eye-catching, and they have our logo. We think people are picking them up and buying them who otherwise would not. It's useful because we have three stores, so if anyone wants to, they can use the cards in our other stores as well. Whenever someone asks for a gift card, we offer the card or the certificate, acknowledging that the gift certificate can be redeemed at more stores [nationwide]. But most people say they won't be using the card at another store."

Williams explained that he was getting faster at activating the cards, but "we have been pre-activating cards in common denominations, so we don't have to activate while someone is waiting."

Williams also told BTW, "I'm excited ABA is doing this. It's very worthwhile to offer a gift card that individual stores can use. We probably never could have created our own electronic gift card. I'm quite positive we never would have been able to afford to do it on our own or had the time to figure it all out.

"Book Sense has worked to make people more aware of independent bookstores. People care about independents, and it's great that we can help those people who do care to come up with a present that will send [the recipient] to another independent bookstore rather than to a [chain]."

Neil Novik of Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, told BTW that it was gift-card season. "It's the time of year for gift cards. We've sold a lot and the vast majority will come back [to redeem them at Odyssey]…. We've sold about five to seven a day."

Initially, Novik was slightly anxious about processing the cards. "I was a little worried our computer would be too slow -- it's not brand new," he said. "But the whole process is very fast. It takes just as much time as writing out a paper gift certificate." Novik said that his staff was already comfortable processing the cards. "It's pretty easy, but we haven't redeemed many yet, just a few. It's a very simple program. I'm really happy with it." -- Karen Schechner