Heather Reisman, the founder and CEO of Indigo Books Music, may be Canada’s most important reader. Since 1998, Reisman has read and recommended books to customers, a kind of hand-selling from the top. These “Heather’s Picks,” now nearing 300 books in all, are given prime placement in the stores, which, more often then not, results in them becoming bestsellers at Indigo.
These are not staff picks—chosen by the staff of individual stores. Heather’s Picks are highly-personal, idiosyncratic books that reflect Reisman’s passions and interests and are highlighted front and center at every Indigo location. They range from consensus favorites like The Girl on a Train and All the Light You Cannot See to books like Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner, the art book The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, and the mediation guide Unplug by Suze Yalof Schwartz, in whose company Reisman and Indigo made an investment earlier this year, with an eye toward opening meditation studios in Indigo locations.
How important is Reisman as a reader? Publishers know enough not to go on the record by name and risk upsetting Reisman, which should tell you just how powerful she is. “Let’s just say that we have had books that seemed like obvious bestsellers to us, and it wasn’t until she gave them her imprimatur that they really took off—and have stayed bestsellers,” says one publisher who requested to remain anonymous
Can Reisman bring her Midas touch to the United States? We may very well find out: Indigo is expected to expand operations to the U.S. sometime in 2018, according to several high-level executives at publishing houses in Canada and the U.S. Speculation is that a first store is being planned for New Jersey. “Heather has many close relationships in New Jersey and knows the area well,” says one executive.
As of July 1, Indigo operated 89 superstores under the Indigo and Chapters brand names. It also ran 122 small-format stores under the names Coles, Indigospirit, SmithBooks, and the Book Company. All of the chain’s stores are located in Canada.
Throughout 2017, Indigo’s revenue has been on the rise. For the fiscal year ended April 17, the company reported total revenue of C$1.02 billion ($950 million), the chain’s highest revenue mark to date. The numbers represent an increase of 2.6%, or C$26 million ($20.6 million), over the same period last year.
Some of the company’s recent success has been attributed to the launch of a new bookstore concept in 2016, which places as equal emphasis on sales of nonbook items, such as stationery and home goods, in addition to books, and dubbed “a cultural department store.”
Current Featured Heather’s Picks
Indigo’s Top 10 Canadian Novels of All Time1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 2. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro 3. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King 4. Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler 5. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden 6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel 8. Shake Hands with the Devil by Roméo Dallaire 9. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje 10. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry