Image: Harry Potter shoppers
Paul Sancya  /  AP
Rebecca Bawal, and her grandmother Lorraine Nelson, right, sift through Harry Potter merchandise at a Michigan Borders store. The chain is stocking everything from sticker books to blood pops.
updated 7/8/2007 5:51:50 PM ET 2007-07-08T21:51:50

Harry Potter entered the wizard shopping district known as Diagon Alley and was amazed by what he saw.

“Harry wished he had eight more eyes,” J.K. Rowling wrote in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” her first book about the boy wizard and his adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For Harry, Diagon Alley offered a cornucopia of robes, eels’ eyes, spell books, quills, potion bottles and magic wands.

If Harry jumped out of the book and entered any Borders or Barnes & Noble store these days, he might be equally overwhelmed.

A stepped-up sales blitz of Potter-themed merchandise is under way thanks to the perfect storm of the release July 21 of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — the seventh and final book in the series — and the fifth movie, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which comes out 10 days earlier.

The strategy is an about-face from 2005, when book No. 6, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” hit shelves. Booksellers then scaled back on Potter paraphernalia, which didn’t sell as well during the lead-up to the fifth novel, 2003’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

But Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. is upping the ante this time around by offering everything from calendars and journals to wall scrolls, wands and lunch boxes.

“There is much more product available this time because of the timing of the movie and book releases,” said Diane Mangan, director of children’s merchandise for Borders.

A Borders location in the Detroit suburb of Novi gives Muggles — those who aren’t wizards or witches — the chance to spend their hard-earned money on all kinds of Potter stuff.

Sticker books and action figures populate two tables devoted solely to Potter merchandise. Sweet-toothed Potter-philes can leave the Novi store with their own version of the candy cart from the Hogwarts Express train. Two stands offer Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and Chocolate Frogs and Blood Pops can be found elsewhere in the store.

Not to be outdone, rival superstore chain Barnes & Noble Inc. also has jumped back into the Potter merchandising game, offering T-shirts, baseball caps, chess sets, calendars, bookmarks, journals, wands and games.

“We will be offering a larger assortment of gifts or non-book products this year,” said Kim Brown, vice president of merchandising at New York-based Barnes & Noble. “We’ve never had a moment when the book and the movie are very close, so I think that will help sales. But I think they’re going to be strong no matter what.”

JP Morgan analyst Nancy Hoch said it makes sense for big book retailers to offer Potter goodies.

“Given the convergence of the film and book releases and the overall excitement around the seventh and final book, I would expect Harry Potter-themed merchandise sales to be up this year,” Hoch said.

While the national chains are pushing more Potter merchandise, they are quick to point out that their main focus still is on the book, which will wrap up Rowling’s epic fantasy series. Worldwide sales of the first six books already top 325 million copies, and the first U.S. printing for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is 12 million.

“We’re a bookstore, so our prominent feature is the book,” said Brown of Barnes & Noble. “The gift items are just an enhancement to the display.”

Many independent booksellers also are selling extras, but mainly they are focusing on the big event: the debut of “Deathly Hallows.”

The Booksmith in San Francisco is bringing in local high school students to help staff its release party, which will feature refreshments, prizes and a costume contest. Partygoers also will find some related merchandise, including Golden Snitches and Hogwarts Castle building cards.

“The extra merchandise is cool, but we are mainly going to sell HP7 that night and we know that,” said Christy Pascoe, a senior staffer at The Booksmith. “The extras are mostly to provide interesting displays for people to look at while they enjoy the games, contests and refreshments.”

The Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., is breaking up its Potter festivities into two days.

Its Midnight Launch Party will feature a local rock/alternative band as well as a fire-dancing troupe that dresses in Hogwarts uniforms. The next day, Changing Hands will provide face-painting, tea-leaf reading, lightning-bolt tattooing, magic wand-making and a reading of the first chapter of “Deathly Hallows” by a local stage actor.

“The thought of just hosting a fabulous ‘goodbye and thank you’ party for a wonderful series is what we wanted the community to enjoy,” said Yvette Roeder, Changing Hands’ public relations manager.

Having a celebratory shindig at just one location isn’t enough for Sally Wizik Wills, owner of Sister Wolf Books and Beagle Books.

Her stores are taking readers on a Harry Potter Party Tour, with stops at an area library and coffee shop. A coffee bar inside Sister Wolf Books in Dorset, Minn., will be transformed into the Three Broomsticks and serve butterbeer, one of Harry’s favorite libations.

“Parties celebrating the release of new books are a way to gather with other folks who share an interest in Harry Potter, have some fun and get the book,” Wills said. “It’s fun, especially for children, to be out in the middle of the night — an unusual occurrence. The parties are a celebration of the books and those who love them.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
$30K HELOC FICO 3.79%
$30K home equity loan FICO 4.99%
$75K home equity loan FICO 4.69%
Credit card rates View more rates
Card type Today +/- Last Week
Low Interest Cards 13.83%
Cash Back Cards 17.80%
Rewards Cards 17.18%