‘Don’t box out bookstores’: Wichita store participates in nationwide campaign

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Signs in the window of Watermark Books and Cafe spell it out pretty clearly: “Don’t box out bookstores.”

“If you want Amazon to be the world’s only retailer, keep shopping there.” 

“Amazon, please leave the dystopia to Orwell.”

“Don’t let indie bookstores become a work of fiction.”

According to the American Booksellers Association, more than one independent bookstore has closed each week since the pandemic began. The group came up with the campaign to show shoppers the role they play in keeping independent bookstores in business.

For Watermark owner Sarah Bagby, the campaign takes the “dirty little secret” out, that customers often shop at both her store and Amazon. The International Council of Shopping Centers in a recent report estimated e-commerce sales will jump 25% this year.

“That behemoth online retailer exists. It’s not going away. In fact, it’s moving to Park City here.
But we’re here too. We need support,” Bagby said.

Bagby and staff have shifted business practices since the pandemic began, cutting back on in-person author visits and bolstering their online presence. She comments, her store has been fortunate to receive financial assistance and PPE.

But the holiday season often subsidizes the lean seasons, she says. Bagby feels, having the tough conversations about Amazon’s impact on her business with customers, strengthens the independent bookstore industry as a whole.

“I don’t expect everyone to completely quit shopping online. However, I think everyone oughta think about what they want in their community and support it,” Bagby said.

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