World Book Day (or ‘World Book and Copyright Day’ as it’s officially known) is a celebration of the narratives and characters that bring us together. However, after 25 years, the event is gradually changing to reflect the way kids engage with stories, whether on the page or screen.
This shift in reader, viewer and audience mentality has created a new event in the national retail calendar, brought major motion pictures into the fold via licensing as well as creating a popular new occasion to don costumes.
The Growing Trend of Dress Up
From classic literature to modern mainstream entertainment properties, comics and on-screen characters, the trend of dress up has widened the scope of World Book Day to include any character to have inspired kids through narrative storytelling; bringing huge opportunities for retailers, brand-owners and licensees to reap the benefits through dress-up.
According to the Evening Standard, 60 percent of parents "go all out" on costumes to impress others on social media, while 36 percent of parents surveyed opted for a dress-up purchase rather than a book in 2019. One in 50 parents spent over £100 on costumes for their kids at retail last year.
In 2018, Ebay.co.uk predicted over £50 million was spent on World Book Day alone after gathering data from over 13,000 costume listings on-site and claiming Harry Potter as the most sought-after publishing property that year. “The average parent spends 15 minutes searching for World Book Day costumes on-site,” the report states. “Searches begin on [Jan. 8] as children return to school after the festive break, however, it’s the following month that sees searches peak, with the most popular day [Feb. 23], with nearly 34,000 searches on that day alone as parents panic buy costumes the weekend before the big day at a rate of almost 25 searches a minute. Meanwhile, the most popular time to search ‘World Book Day costume’ is between 9PM and 10PM, as parents hunt for ensembles just as their child has finished their bedtime story.”
Sainsbury's top-selling World Book Day Costumes of 2018 were, sequentially, Harry Potter, Gruffalo, Spiderman, Superman, Willy Wonka, "Star Wars" Stormtrooper, Where’s Wally, Darth Vader, Batman and Princess Sleeping Beauty. Today, as the trend grows and parents get ready for March 5, mainstay retailers in the U.K. such as Argos, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, Tesco and Asda are offering inspiration based on everything from comics, kids books and Disney classics to parents looking to impress on the school run. The focus at retail for supermarkets also includes licensed apparel, accessories and consumer goods to add to an overall World Book Day experience.
Building a 360° World Book Day Experience
The retail experience that builds the hype for World Book Day doesn’t just include thousands of supermarkets and general merchandise retailers, but specialist stores such as Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smith, Blackwell, Easton, Bookstation and independent bookstores across the U.K. and Ireland. These stores embrace World Book Day as a way to bring people in-store, inspire kids through creative writing and host family-centric workshops to celebrate the day and create a wider retail experience.
What’s more, is that World Book Day collaborates with publishers to offer kids an exclusive list of committee-curated books for £1 with tokens distributed to kids who can redeem them in Asda, Sainsbury’s WH Smiths and more. These books include Bing’s Splashy Story, Supertato, Amelia Fang, Dog Man and Alex Rider out of the 12 titles on offer.
World Book Day also builds a wider experience by offering resources to schools, teachers, families and kids looking to get hands-on with the celebration and enjoy activities together. The foundation has bolstered these activities by working directly with pre-school mainstays such as Bing and multi-generational properties such as the new “Star Wars” franchise to create new resource packs and work with intellectual property owners to embrace the change.
The goal of this celebration is, after all, to inspire kids and get them excited about reading. Today, the charitable foundation turned national retail mainstay has evolved, but nonetheless risen to 89.5 percent of awareness across young people. Six in 10 children have also stated they were inspired by World Book Day to read more, and most importantly, helped change the lives of everyday children with one in four stating a book they bought for £1 with a World Book Day token was the first book they ever owned.
World Book Day may be changing, recognizing new mainstream properties, bolstering the sale of licensed goods and offering a way for retailers, brand owners and licensees to embrace new touchpoints, but inspiring more children to engage with storytelling will reap endless rewards for both industry and individual.