World Book Day: Retailers rubbing Aladdin’s lamp

By Rhena Bunwaree

Looking back at the story of the high street, bookshops have played a colourful role, despite the changes wrought by the arrival of the Web. They still have influence, and World Book Day is helping our booksellers inspire the next generation of readers. The event – falling on Thursday 7th March this year – is giving other retail sectors a welcome annual boost too.

Books are serious business

Nielsen BookScan stats show that the print book market in the UK grew 2.1% in value and 0.3% in volume in 2018. In total, 190.9m books were sold last year, for a total of £1.63bn.

And with plans to give more than 15 million book tokens to children on World Book Day to promote the love for reading, every child would probably want to visit a bookshop to get their hands on a free book.

A product hook for retail

It’s not just booksellers who can benefit from World Book Day. Unwilling to stay strapped inside the book covers, grocery retailers such as Sainsbury and Asda have found a way to capitalise on this and make some profit by bringing World Book Day to life. With pupils around the country encouraged to come to school dressed as their favourite book character, a lucrative new merchandising opportunity has opened up, and supermarkets are grabbing a slice of the action. The reality across British homes is that not all parents have the time and creativity to make their own costumes for the kids.

What to wear on dress-up day?

Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Asda have all developed costume ranges featuring favourite fictional characters. How much parents choose to spend on a costume varies by brand. Character outfits range from Peter Pan and Tinker Bell from Disney, to timeless childhood tales Little Red Riding Hood, The Cat in the Hat and Alice in Wonderland. Harry Potter characters are also proving to be a hugely popular option.

Adults are not left out either with Harry Potter, Mr Twit and Willy Wonka all-in-one outfits available from Sainsbury’s, for example.

Asda will also be using the event as a cross-merchandising opportunity, selling children’s World Book Day costumes in store alongside books.

Let’s get philosophical

It’s tempting to quote Dr Pangloss, the quack philosopher in Voltaire’s Candide, who insisted that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’. In modern retailing,  it’s certainly always good to be positive and look for every opportunity to attract shopper traffic and boost sales. Creating a whole new product category is well worth doing when there is a demand, so we will watch with interest how this World Book Day product trend develops.

If retailers market new ranges well, offer the right pricing and create great in-store environments around calendar events, consumers are more likely to visit the terrestrial bookshop, than habitually head to Amazon.

Retailers have learned so much from shopping event days like Halloween and Valentine Day, any new dates that come out of the blue should be nurtured and cherished. That way, everyone’s a winner.

Photo credit: Aldi

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