The owners of Collected Works on Wellington Street are hoping a "Christmas angel" will step in to save the independent bookstore by Christmas Eve — if not, they say they'll be forced to shut it down for good.

"The store faced a very tough year financially," said co-owner Christopher Smith by phone Sunday.

He's been running the store with co-owner Craig Poile since 1987.

"We've seen our sales remain flat, while our occupancy costs have risen. Ultimately all of our cash reserves have been eaten up just keeping the store going," Smith said.

A bad year for local independent booksellers

If it shuts down, Collected Works would be the fourth independent Ottawa bookseller to do so — or to announce plans to do so — in 2012. Mother Tongue Books on Bank Street and Nicholas Hoare in the ByWard Market both closed earlier this year. The owner of Books on Beechwood announced this year that its doors are closing in January.

Collected Works has been "quietly" up for sale since just after Thanksgiving, Smith said. Now, they're going public in a last-ditch effort to drum up interest.

The business is on sale for $1, but the new owner would assume all of Collected Works' liabilities.

"We strongly felt that if someone with deeper pockets than our own could step in and take over the business, that they could arrest the financial problems it's facing and turn things around.

Sales flat despite store expansion

"There's that fantasy that a Christmas angel is going to descend from heaven and shower money on the store and rescue it from what otherwise is going to be its demise," he said.

More than two years ago, Collected Works had the opportunity to take over more space that came available right next to it. At the time, Smith said the original store felt too small to house all of its events, including talks with authors.

It meant paying more rent, but Smith said they calculated that if they could boost sales by about 30 per cent, they'd make it.

"Unfortunately … sales just remained flat. So over two and a half years we were kind of like the frog in the pot of water. He doesn't notice that he's getting cooked," Smith said.

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