Héloïse Schep
Harry Potter enthusiasts peruse the Yule Ball’s display of novels.

“Calling all Muggles, wizards and witches!” a large poster at the Arden Fair Mall’s Barnes & Noble proclaims. Nearby, a group of teenagers, all dressed in wizarding robes, gawk at a selection of wands.

On Dec. 9, Barnes & Noble held a special event for Harry Potter lovers: the Magical Holiday Ball. Inspired by the Yule Ball in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” this event featured everything Harry Potter: crafts, wizarding games, music, books, clothing, photo booths and posters.

As I walked into Barnes and Noble (wearing my house scarf over my normal clothes), I could hear loud talking and music at the back of the store. There, I was faced with walls and walls of merchandise: wands, robes, shirts, bobblehead dolls, board games, coloring sets, sorting hats  and every Harry Potter book ever published, each in multiple editions.

Héloïse Schep
Barnes & Noble’s section for collectors’ items was stocked with Harry Potter memorabilia.

There were also a lot of sales going on. Books were marked down by 40 percent and Harry Potter clothing 30 percent. Members got an extra 10 percent off, and buying all seven Harry Potter books resulted in another markdown. In addition, items relating to the newest film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” were marked down 20 percent.

It felt like a Harry Potter Black Friday – which, of course, resulted in some Black Friday- like crowds.

Unfortunately, the whole Ball was designed around a central point, made up of five shelves of merchandise. It was a spot, right in the middle of the store, that every single visitor had to pass through.

Needless to say, it was filled with people and didn’t exactly make a great stopping point.

Héloïse Schep
A selection of Harry Potter wands sits in Barnes & Noble’s collectors’ items section.

Furthermore, the impressive amount of merchandise (even though it resulted in crowds) was the only thing that really impressed me about the Holiday Ball.

First, it wasn’t a ball. There was no music (aside from the usual elevator music played at Barnes & Noble year round) and no decorations. It just looked like a normal Barnes & Noble that happened to have a lot of people dressed in robes.

The only difference in the store was the four crafting and coloring tables set up in the kids’ area and a photo booth in the same place. The tables were organized into the four Harry Potter houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and  Slytherin.

Still, these features were only for little kids, and didn’t seem to impress most of the visitors.

Second, the limited-edition gifts Barnes & Noble boasted (an illustrated poster for visitors!) were extremely limited. After the first 15 minutes or so, they were completely gone. I didn’t get one, and neither did many other visitors.

Maybe Barnes & Noble wasn’t prepared for such a large turnout.

Though I loved how much Harry Potter merchandise they had, the execution of the event just didn’t live up to my expectations.

By Héloïse Schep

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