For nearly a quarter of a century, in Wenham has been a “mission-driven” store selling children’s books.
But next month, it will close.
Owner Pat Purdy said she made the decision after seeing customers buying habits increasingly shift to the Internet – among other factors that have led to less business.
Purdy said she began spreading the word about the closing last week to her most loyal customers and a sign has already been posted on the door advertising 20-50 percent off.
The store is closed on Mondays, but on Tuesday Purdy said she will put a sandwich board and balloons out along Main Street (Route 1A) in front of the store announcing that it is closing and promoting the discounts. She said anyone with a gift certificate should come in and redeem it. All sales will be final, she said.
Starting May 24, all books will then be 50 percent off and Purdy said she will start to sell the fixtures and bookshelves too. The store’s final day is planned for June 15.
“We’ve had faithful, wonderful customers that have been committed to what we do,” Purdy said.
Purdy said she’s increasing been battling Internet book sales. Business, she said, has dropped “precipitously” recently, she said.
“It is not the economy,” she said.
Instead, people find can buy books tax-free – often with free shipping – online, she said. Tax-free online shopping, she said, has been one of the store’s biggest challenges. She’s brought her concerns to local and state leaders, pushing for Internet sales to be taxed.
“You are not working to make it a level playing field,” she has told them, to no avail, she said.
Internet sales have had a much more drastic impact than the big box bookstores, she said.
“We survived the box stores,” she said.
Borders, for example, opened and during Banbury Cross’ lifetime.
Newer parents have grown up almost entirely with the Internet, she said.
“That is their world,” she said. “I get it.”
Purdy said she is not opposed to people making purchases on the Internet or using devices such as the Kindle, Nook or iPad to read e-books.
“Independent bookstores are just going to have to adapt and figure it out,” she said.
The human interaction a shopper gets in the store is an “integral part of what we do,” Purdy said.
She has seen a decrease in interest from parents in sharing a good book with their children.
“I do not fault technology,” she said. “There needs to be a balance.”
Purdy said she personally reviews most of the books she orders before the book is released and considers whether she will stock it.
“What is this book going to bring to a life of a child?” is one question she asks, noting she doesn’t just go down the best seller list and order each book on it. “We’ve always stayed true to our mission.”
The closing will also impact the store manager, Gwen Holt. , which is run out of the store, will continue at other locations, she said.
Purdy said she leases the building and it will be a relief to not have to worry about paying the rent each month. Beyond that, she’s not sure what she will do next in life, considering more volunteer work, getting a part-time job or traveling.
“It’s interesting, I’m open to ideas,” she said.