Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmastime In Retail

By Tricia Miles
(From Lorna Barrett's Booktown Mysteries)

Tis the season to make it or break it.  That's the way those of us who depend on retail look at the Christmas season.  Will we make enough to take our spreadsheets out of the red and into the black?  Will we decide it's just too much (especially in this economy) and shut down forever?

Those are questions I'm glad I haven't had to ask.  My mystery bookshop, Haven't Got a Clue, seems to chug along at an even pace all year round.  Yes, things do slow down during the winter months when tourists are few and far between, but that's when our Internet sales seem to pick up.  And it gives me and my employees a little breathing space.

Winter is the time to unpack books, add them to the inventory, and generally take a deep breath--smell the fresh, clean New Hampshire air.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Christmastime in Stoneham is wonderful--magical!  All the shopkeepers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local Board of Selectman go overboard decorating our little village.  A huge evergreen is erected in the middle of the town park (right next to the gazebo), and there must be a thousand twinkling white lights decorating it. The local schools hold an outdoor concert with children singing out of tune, the band belts out Christmas chestnuts at a morbid pace, and everyone beams with pride -- even those of us who don't have kids.  Just one of the delights of living in a small community.

Every year the Chamber holds a competition: which shop owner has the prettiest display.  I have to admit, we haven't won it yet--but not for trying.  My employees, Ginny Wilson and Mr. Everett, work hard coming up with ideas for the display.  This year Ginny made little Santa hats for books that featured a Christmas theme.  It was darling.

Unfortunately, my cat, Miss Marple, took a romp through the window just thirty minutes before the judging.  (Naughty girl!)  I was glad I'd taken a picture of the display, but sadly the judges wouldn't use it as evidence of all the thought and hard work put into the display.  (And wouldn't you know my sister Angelica's store, the Cookery, would win the competition.  She will never let me forget it, either.)

Christmastime in a lovely village . . . can there be anything as sweet?  What's Christmas like where you live?

(P.S.  Two things to remember:  books make GREAT Christmas gifts -- and support your local bookstores!)


  1. Our Christmas parade is held at night, which makes it more magical. The kids get lots of candy, the floats look well-loved and familiar, and about twenty extra tractors always show up to pull the floats. Santa and his sleigh follow a long formation of tractors driven by smiling farmers wearing Santa hats and throwing candy.

  2. One of the things I like about the holiday here in the city is the window displays and how each office building decorate with a giant tree in their entrance and outside their property.

    Thanks for sharing your town's Christmas with us. Next year you'll win.

  3. Hi Janet and Dru. Thanks for sharing. Dru, I used to live in Manhattan and well remembers those lovely window displays. Make no mistake, our display was nothing so grand, but we were happy with it. I'll keep my fingers crossed for next year.

  4. Naughty Miss Marple!

    Our town has "Window Night" the first Wednesday in December. Santa arrives on a fire truck. Half the kids in town stand in line to talk to Santa and the other other stand in line to get rides on the fire truck. Our church choir sings carols, the stores are all open late, and cookies and eggnog abound. It's a wonderful evening.

    Janet, I love the image of the farmers wearing Santa hats!

  5. The first Saturday of December is our annual town lighted Christmas parade. All floats, fire trucks, vehicles, etc. must have lights on them. Even the high school band members have lights running up and down the sides of the pants, and around their instruments. The hit of the parade this year was the scene that was on the top of the hospital's ambulance, not to worry the town has two ambulances, so in case of an emergency one was still at the hospital ready to go. This year it was bitter cold, but that didn't stop half of the town to coming to watch the parade, while the other half were in the parade.

  6. We live far in the country, no special community activities. When the ids were home, all the neighbor kids would come to our house to bake, make candy and home made gifts. It was fun!
    Our family celebrates with a big pot pf Christmas Eve soup on, what else? Christmas Eve.
    Daughter and I worked in Health Care andwould volunteer to work Christmas day so someone else could spend time with family.

  7. Aw, you're always a winner, Tricia. Where would that town be without you?

    I wish there was a video of Miss Marple's window romp!


  8. I love the idea of putting Santa hats on Christmas themed books, much easier for those of us who love reading them this time of year to find.

    And as for books for Christmas and supporting my local favorite indy bookshop, I have kept up two subscriptions of a mystery book a month, one for my sister and one for my dad, both with High Crimes Mystery Bookhop in Boulder, CO. I've maintained this for the last few years. It's a win-win as we trade them back and forth as we finish.