Sizzlin' Sideline From Bookshop Santa Cruz

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Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, California, is no stranger to tongue-in-cheek, clever marketing gambits. In 1993, the bookstore weighed Rush Limbaugh's book and sold it at the price of baloney. In 1995, the store included an airline "barf bag" with every copy of Newt Gingrich's To Renew America (HarperCollins). Now Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Neal Coonerty has created a top-selling sideline that's right (or left) in line with the liberal leanings of the Santa Cruz community: The Bush Countdown Clock, which displays to a tenth of a second how much time remains "until Bush goes."

BTW recently caught up with Coonerty via e-mail to find out how the new sideline was faring.

BTW: How'd you come up with the idea for the Bush Countdown Clock?

Neal Coonerty: Like many of the best ideas, it's borrowed. I saw a number of Internet sites where you can download a Bush countdown clock for your web page. I Googled "countdown clock" and discovered Among their examples was a Clinton countdown clock, and if anyone deserves a countdown clock, it is President Bush. We designed it according to the specifications on their site, obtained permission to use the photo, and off we went.

BTW: How is it selling? What are some of the comments you've heard from customers?

NC: It is so hot it is sizzlin'. We took a wild chance, ordered 3,000, and started selling them at $11.98 on October 27. We sold out at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. We were wondering how our follow-up order, which arrived on January 6, would do since the gift-giving holidays were over. We are now selling a steady 25 a day, more on the weekends. It sells from two clear boxes at our cash register station. We fill up the box and watch a true impulse item fly out the door. A customer will see the display, laugh, pick up one and look at it as we ring up their book purchases, and then say, "Oh my God, my Dad and Uncle will love this." Suddenly, three clocks at $11.98 each are added to the purchase.

BTW: Are any other bookstores selling the Countdown Clock? Any reports back from them?

NC: Since we were short on inventory before Christmas, we just started shipping clocks to other bookstores. Stores with the clock or with clocks on the way are Rivendell Books in Montpelier, Vermont; Cody's Books in Berkeley; The King's English in Salt Lake City; Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Village Books in Bellingham, Washington; Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi; Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge; and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.

I don't know if they are out on display, because they just got them, but I'm confident they will sell well. We wholesale them at $6 with a minimum order of 50 clocks, and booksellers can mark them up as they choose, but we have no problem selling them at $11.98. We also have an attractive display that we can supply at cost ($15), if wanted.

BTW: Has it been cathartic to create the Bush Countdown Clock?

NC: What we found out is, our timing for this product is perfect. After the election and Bush's win, people in Santa Cruz went into a political depression. They were blue as can be. Now, after a year of Bush mistakes and the tide of public opinion turning, people are ready to have fun again. All that humor we saw in books before the election is coming back, and the Bush Countdown Clock is giving them a way to express it.

BTW: Anything else you'd care to add?

NC: Well, it is clear we have a three-year sell-through on this item. It is fun to watch the number go down. It is also fun to sell an item with a good margin.

To order the Bush Countdown Clock, contact Coonerty via e-mail at (and type "Bush Clock" in the subject line), or call (831) 460-3224. --Interviewed by Karen Schechner