Independent bookstores embrace 'Pokémon Go' traffic
Pokémon Go, the new augmented-reality mobile game that allows users to walk around catching Pokémon at various real-world locations, has gotten tons of people outside this past week. One bonus result? An uptick in foot traffic to businesses with “Poké Stops” nearby.
Those stops are a core component of the game, where players can gain experience and restock on items, so they end up frequently drawing players (and potential customers). Bookstores such as Strand in New York City have seen a healthy amount of Pokémon Go players coming through thanks to its Poké Stop location.
“We’ve fully embraced it,” Strand communications director Whitney Hu tells EW. “We changed our welcome sign on our door. It’s always said ‘Welcome Book Lovers,’ and now it says, ‘Welcome Pokémon Trainers’ too. We are a Poké Stop, and so people have definitely been swinging by because it’s a great place to restock on Poké Balls.”
Hu says visitors have even found Bulbasaurs in the Strand elevator. “Our audience seems to be using this as an excuse to come swing by, like, ‘Oh great I have to go get a book and catch a Pokémon. Look at me, I’m such an efficient adult,’ Hu says. “It’s been really fun and we’ve been pandering to that duality of catching a Bulbasaur and going home with a new book to read for the night.”
In addition to the changed sign, Strand has also promoted its Poké Stop nature on social media and even sent out a cheeky list of book recommendations for Pokémon players on the store’s online newsletter (one such example: Every Person In New York by Jason Polan, building on the wide spectrum of people playing the game).
Strand benefits from its prime location in the heart of Manhattan, but other independent bookstores and local businesses across the country have also seen a Pokémon Go bump, such as Austin’s BookPeople.
“We’ve heard about some businesses that seem to be benefitting from a stop nearby, like a bakery down the street that folks are stopping in for Pokémon and picking stuff up, asking questions about the local area, and capturing some business while they’re there,” BookPeople manager Bryan Samsone says. “We expect it to be a part of what we do, if it’s not too disruptive. We facilitate folks who are here in Austin looking for entertainment. I would not be surprised if BookPeople ended up with a Pokémon display sometime in the next couple weeks.”
There are no shortage of Pokémon books out there, either. Although the new game is giving the franchise a fresh injection of energy, it’s been around for years, and there are tons of Pokémon character guides and comics out there. Both Strand and Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina have seen bumps in Pokémon book sales since the new game.
“Pokemon books are starting to sell again,” Regulator co-owner John Valentine says. “It’s an interesting thing, because you have both young people discovering it and older people who knew it back in the ’90s. They really scored a hit on this one. People are talking about it, it is really popular. We’re on 9th Street, which is a heavily trafficked street, so on afternoons it’s packed with people looking at their phones, looking around for Pokémon, where normally they’d be inside on their laptops. It’s all these kids and adults in motion outside.”