In December, we had a record day, in a record month, in a record year.
All this was unexpected, to say the least. I feel almost guilty about it. I came out of the interregnum planning for a 40% drop in sales.
Nationally, bookstores on average dropped about 30% in 2020. Our sales increased by 30% every month after the 54 day break. Even including those 54 days, we were 15% higher in overall sales than 2019. If I figure the daily average instead, we were 27% over last year.
Much of this increase was in new books. I more or less went all in on books this year. I came back to work 2 days a week in September, 2018. It took a few months to build up a head of steam, but then the books really took off. We have more or less doubled our sales in new books. It isn't without some cost--I'm probably working at least a extra two days a week just dealing with the ordering, stocking, and recycling this increase entails.
But we've also increased almost every other category, because the extra profit allowed us to beef up our toys, our graphic novels, our card games, and our board games. It became a bit of virtuous cycle. We managed to increase books sales without detracting from the other lines--in fact, we boosted them.
The other reason for our increase is where my guilt comes in.
When we opened after the interregnum (I like that word...) I had to decide how I was going to go about it. There wasn't any real choice but to open, so it was a matter of what kind of restrictions I would put in. On what hours we would pursue.
I decidedly, rightly or wrongly, just to flat out open. Same hours, same basic procedures--except we've been very stringent about the wearing of masks. I'm not shy about challenging people about masks, or the way they wear them. None of this wearing masks loose around the nose, for instance.
Being open was risky. I've have preexisting conditions, and so does Linda, and I certainly don't want to put Sabrina in danger. But, like I said, it was either open or close for good.
What I think has happened is that Bend became even more of a tourist destination than usual. And there were no festivals and other distractions. Downtown Bend became not only a shopping zone, but a form of entertainment. I've been a little torn by this--on one hand, I think people shouldn't just browse with no intention of buying, on the other hand--how can I ask this when I'm asking for their money?
Large numbers of people from the valley, and from California and Washington. We are driving distance away, and exotic enough to visit. There wasn't as much competition for the bucks--no movies, no concerts, limited other ways to spend money. I do believe the "shop local" tag became more real this year, and that families found a renewed interest in reading.
I will say, it seemed that tourist traffic really died off around Christmas, which was unexpected, but we did well with the local traffic. (In fact, I was a little concerned that we might get too busy!)
It's a strange turn of events, and once again the old observation (after 40 years in the store) is that we do very well in bad times. I'm not sure why; I have theories, but none of them make any real sense.
I'm still nervous about next year. I have no real confidence that the current administration hasn't botched the roll out of the vaccine. So we're still in danger for, my guess, probably half a year. Still a long way to go. I really feel for the restaurants and other businesses that have been crunched by this year.
God bless us all.