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A Letter from a Liquidator

Back at the beginning of the Great Recession, there were articles like this, about stores going out of business and the companies that helped them do so.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Economy/story?id=6648761&page=1

One of the companies named in this article, G.A.W., sent me a letter. A store in my town is going out of business, and I have received an invitation to one of these sales, right down to the bring the letter and you get points to the prize that someone will win, and bring the envelope and you'll get even more. That little nugget is hidden in a footnote all the way at the bottom of the letter.

The letter has all the elements. Invitations to loyal customers before generally being promoted. A prize giveaway. The requirement to have the invitation to get the early discounts, but you can bring someone along who didn't get the invitation.

It's January, and January is a come to Jesus month for retail. If you didn't make enough in the holiday season, January is when you may decide that paying the rent until the next big month of sales just isn't worth it.

That time has come for my local, independent book store.

I'm totally going to the sale. I've continued to buy books there during the entire time I've been raving about e-books. I've continued to buy gift certificates there for other people during that time. I'm gonna miss 'me when they're gone, but I cannot say I'm particularly surprised. A lot of other stores which were damaged by the transition to digital media but which survived found some kind of merchandise niche. My favorite local chain that displays this is Newbury comics. When their music (yeah, I know, you didn't see that coming, Left Coast readers, did you?) business fell off a cliff, their nerd merch business let them continue soldiering on.

I don't know why Willow Books never found a merch business. They experimented. They started selling used books. They sold more and more coloring books for adults and jigsaw puzzles and similar. But this town supports more than one The Paper Stores in surprisingly close proximity (one of which is right next to a toy store and a gift store -- seriously, you wouldn't think it would be possible, but if you're looking for a present for someone who is hard to shop for, those three shops are pretty much guaranteed to offer something awesome for a reasonable price, which is probably why the trio continue to do business as a cluster). And Willow couldn't seem to take their own cafe -- which existed more as a theoretical entity on its website than a place you could actually go to eat or drink -- seriously, much less anything other than books.

And paper books has gone from being a tough business to an increasingly impossible one.