14 December 2005
Booksellers, freethought booksellers included, make about 50% of their sales in the last quarter of the year. This keeps them going through the long hot dry desert of, well, February to October, enabling them to eat, pay the rent and keep jobs going.
Like every other trader, we need to bring ourselves to people's attention, and remind our loyal customers that we're still here. How best to do this, at this seasonal time of year?
We've given in and organised a series of late night "Christmas Charity Evenings", where, essentially, people can shop for presents, and feel virtuous about it, knowing that 10% of all sales are being donated to two local charities.
Last year, we had "Not the Xmas Party" a rollicking good affair attended by all our friends and MCed by the incomparable Arnie G. They say the Devil has all the best songs, but it looks to me as if the Christians have helped themselves to all the best festivals. We could refer to the "Winter Solstice, "Winter Festival", "Yuletide" and other such terms. But everyone knows we are talking about Christmas. Or, if they don't, they just look confused, and the point of bringing ourselves to their attention is lost.
Now charity, there's another problem word, with its paternalistic undertones. But it does the job: people like the added value of contributing to a cause they support. They support us, keeping bread on the table for another year, and we share the surpluses with others.
I've got a year to come up with some alternative words that signal the intent and purpose and everyone immediately knows what I'm talking about, without the irony of colluding with the very things I'm opposed to.
If you're untroubled by these dilemmas (or even if you are but would find it a relief to be among likeminded people), you might like to join us. More information at www.frontlinebooks.co.uk.