Window View at Penn Book Center

The windows at Penn Book Center in Philadelphia, PA, have bothered owner Ashley Montague for a long time. “They are vast,” she told me. “In the bookstore, we have pretty interesting displays. The books sort of talk to each other. Our windows are very large, but not that deep. They were intriguing intellectually, but visually didn’t fill the space.”

After attending an ABA meeting last spring, she decided to explore one of the ideas presented: collaboration with non-profits. Penn Book Center is located near both Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. Montague wanted to seek the help of visual thinkers and discovered a visual merchandising program at Drexel. She learned that the students create window displays for businesses all over Philadelphia, so she got the bookstore on the list for the next semester.

Montague worked with store personnel to determine the theme for two windows. They decided on gardening and children’s books for the visual impact and because they were more open-ended. The visual merchandising class was divided into 4 different groups, and they presented two proposals for each window. With the help of their professor, the students gained practical experience by delivering a pitch, presenting a contract, working within a $50 budget for each window, and adhering to a timeline.

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

For the children’s book window, the students printed large images and affixed them to cardboard. They tried to create a sense of depth by layering the images. Some characters are attached directly to the glass while others are suspended.

The group wanted to explore texture in the gardening window, so they used tissue paper, mesh fabric, flowers made from newspaper, paper bags and vegetables made from cardboard. They enlarged book covers and incorporated the images into large seed packets.

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

The displays were installed the last week of February, and Montague has already seen an increase in children’s book sales. “The life-size characters seem to suck the children in,” she says. She plans to keep the window displays up at least a month. Although window display now falls back to the responsibility of the bookstore, Montague is already thinking about them differently.

The children’s book display from Penn Book Store was the winner of the February Window Display Contest. To see this and other displays, visit our gallery.

Interactive Display: Handselling Lois Ehlert

This week, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert was released. It has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and is a recommended title for Common Core. Although she has written and illustrated dozens of books for young people, more than children will find this new work enchanting.

Ehlert turns 80 this year, and this colorful memoir offers inspiration for young and old to embrace their own creativity. You can help foster that creativity with an interactive display. In addition to her backlist, place on your display table a shallow box with colorful scraps of paper in all shapes and sizes, and beside it place a white piece of paper or poster board to serve as a canvas. Invite customers to “create” temporary pieces of art using Ehlert’s collage technique, only without the glue. When each piece is complete, take a photo to upload to a Facebook album. Once the photo is taken, the scraps can go back into the box until the next artist comes along.

I love the idea of encouraging adults to interact with this display, not only because of their purchasing ability, but also because too often we’re told to color within the lines.

Detail from The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert

Sign Branding

bluewillowButItsBlueThe February 21 issue of Shelf Awareness featured a piece by Robert Gray titled “That Elusive ‘Red Cover’ Book, Revisited”. The article explored how booksellers serve as “customer request decoders” in the “Who knows?” game. It’s a great article, but I want to focus on one aspect in the piece: a great display photo from Valerie Koehler’s Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX. It features table full of books with blue covers and a fantastic sign that reads, “I don’t remember the title, but it’s blue.”

The image of that display showed up on Reddit today, which means that we’ll start seeing it shared through social media for a while. But it’s only the image, with no attribution to Blue Willow Bookshop. Don’t get me wrong; to have a positive image that we’ve created go viral is good. But think of the hits Blue Willow would be receiving over the coming weeks if the store name was attached in some way.

One way to do this is to attach a watermark to the images you post. But an easier

Why You Should Have a Book Club Display

Sometimes display space can be at a premium, so dedicating square footage to showcase book club selections can be considered a luxury. But a book club display doesn’t have to take up a lot of room, and the resulting sales are worth the space.

I’m sure you’ve noticed in your stores that customers will buy a book club selection even if they have no intention of attending the book club discussion. One reason for this is that a bookstore can be a daunting place, and some customers do not feel comfortable engaging with booksellers. Choosing a book club selection

Spring Bud Branch

Since spring is around the corner, here’s an idea you can steal for a spring display.

Step 1. Trim a small branch from a tree.

Step 2. Pull a galley you’ve already read.

Step 3. Tear a page from the galley and tear it into a 3″ square. (Hand torn edges are best.)