A lean year for Sant Jordi

Book and flower sales in Catalonia are expected to be modest during annual festive celebration

People at a bookstand in Barcelona.
People at a bookstand in Barcelona.Massimiliano Minocri

Book vendors and florists in Catalonia always eagerly await the Diada de Sant Jordi (St. George’s Day) – but that’s not to say that they have great expectations for increased sales. The annual festive event, which fell on Wednesday, is expected to reap them the same rewards as last year.

But Sant Jordi still attracts the masses in Barcelona and elsewhere in the region, where tens of thousands of people observe the tradition of exchanging roses and trading and buying books.

Booksellers expect to rake in about €18.4 million from the estimated sale of 1.4 million copies. “This is a reading celebration and we hope that Sant Jordi will turn the tide of these difficult times, now that macroeconomic figures show that the fall in sales has leveled off,” says Antoni Daura, the head of Catalonia Booksellers Guild. “But in any case, we expect very modest figures.”

We hope Sant Jordi will turn the tide of these difficult moments” Head of the book vendors guild

For their part, florists set a goal of selling at least four roses for every book sold. Distributor Mercabarna-Flor estimates that some six million roses will be sold throughout Catalonia on Wednesday, with one-third of those flowers coming from their own warehouses.

Barcelona officials have granted 4,977 permits for flower vendors and 758 for book stands across the city.

Sales during Sant Jordi usually represent 30 percent of the total annual sales of roses throughout the region, according to Mercabarna. In fact, since the feast day falls on a work day, vendors hope to see more flowers sold, given that companies usually purchase roses in large quantities to give to their female employees.

When it comes to books, sales on Sant Jordi make up between seven and eight percent of the region’s annual business, according to the guild.

Booksellers are hoping to capitalize on a renewed interest in novels by the late Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, who died Thursday in Mexico City at the age of 87.

Other books, both in Catalan and Spanish, which are expected to do well this year include The Illiterate was a Genius of Numbers, by Jonas Jonasson; Eufòria (Euphoria), de Xavier Bosch; La terapeuta (The therapist), by Gaspar Hernández; Las tres bodas de Manolita (Manolita’s three weddings), by Almudena Grandes; Amor contra Roma (Love against Rome), by Víctor Amela; and The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan.

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