Books-a-Million Reopens in Kmart Plaza With ‘Harry Potter’ Event

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 7/31/2016 12:12:51 AM
Modified: 7/31/2016 12:12:52 AM

West Lebanon — Bookstores typically are not open for business Saturday at midnight and into the wee Sunday morning hours. But the release of a new Harry Potter book is not a typical day (or evening) event, either.

Books-a-Million, which earlier this month relocated from the Valley Square Shopping Center, home to Walmart and Price Chopper, to the Kmart Plaza, organized a Harry Potter-themed event at its new store on Saturday night. Customers were encouraged to show up dressed as their favorite Potter character and get lessons in “wand making” — as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was scheduled to go on sale at 12:01 a.m.

“We’re not closing until the last customer gets their book,” Robert Chase, manager of the Books-a-Million store in West Lebanon, said earlier in the week, noting that he called in all 10 of the store’s employees to be on hand.

As of Tuesday, the bookstore had sold 285 discount vouchers for Cursed Child, an infinitesimal fraction of the 4.5 million copies the publisher is printing for the U.S. market but a sign that there is still a demand for a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in the Upper Valley despite the retail business substantially shifting online, Chase said.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-a-Million was forced to relocate its West Lebanon store after it lost the lease at its previous location in the Walmart and Price Chopper plaza after the property management company wanted to convert the space to make way for a Michaels craft supplies outlet.

But the new location, in the former Sleep Source mattress store, involves a reduction in retail space from 23,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet, although the former location also included an in-store cafe and a music and DVD area.

Plans call for Books-a-Million to expand into the adjacent Rent-a-Center store, giving it an additional 3,000 square feet, as Rent-a-Center will move a couple of doors east into the space formerly occupied by gift store The Mouse Menagerie, which moved out after flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Chase said the inventory of books hasn’t shrunk as much as the cut in square feet would suggest. “Instead of carrying eight copies of the same title, we carry two,” he said. The expanded space, in addition to books, will carry more of the toys, games and tech gadgets that were available in the former location and represent a significant increase in the store’s product selection.

The move did not entail the store missing a day of sales, however. Rather than losing valuable time by moving the contents of old store to the new location one mile north, the store’s trucks from its warehouse in Florence, Ala., came to pack up everything on the shelves and cart it away while all the merchandise for the new store was shipped in on another truck from the company warehouse. One downside: The new store requires about half the number of employees.

Chase acknowledges that store sales have fallen slightly since the store reopened on July 10 in the Kmart plaza. He attributes this to the former location being co-located with “destination stores” Walmart and Price Chopper, and the fact that some of Books-a-Million’s customers are unaware the store simply moved and did not shut down permanently.

“We had people who shopped at our store five, six days a week,” Chase said. “But we’re not seeing them as much.” But he’s hopeful the downtick is temporary and traffic will return to pre-move levels.

John Lippman can be reached at or 603-727-3219.

Valley News

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