I'll put the other part (endcap) later on. There is also a second side virtually identical to side one.
This display is serviced by TNG, formerly the News Group West, which has recently rebranded itself as "TNG." This company dates back 100 years and was founded in Canada. Through all subsidiaries, it services approximately 90% of the U.S. and Canada, and employs more than 3,600 people in the U.S. alone, with 15 distribution centers, 2,500 trucks, and 50 depots.
So there was some type of management or visit at my Ralphs store today. Everyone was in a good mood and up at the front of the store. I talked with some of the employees with whom I'm acquainted and they said the magazine people were due soon -- but hadn't gotten there yet.
In other words - it was obvious as to which books were selling and which had been sitting there like lumps on a log. Our top sellers at the Aliso Viejo Ralphs? A cookbook (Healthy Meals - surprise!) and Dr. Seuss - who's running out fast. Brandon Sanderson appears to have sold two books. And there's so many Allegiants they might well be converted to some other store use. Like maybe at the meat counter. In the fiction category, the only writer who looked to really have moved some books was Johanna Lindsay. More about her later on.
Demographics for those who shop at this Ralphs are going to be very good for high end goods, and I physically notice a lot of parents with young children in the neighborhood. Median household income is $94,558; median age is going to be slightly younger than average for the county, and it will be a primarily white community with a lot of individuals with professional degrees, as well as business owners. Aliso Viejo is sometimes called "the safest city in the U.S." and is one of several planned communities in South Orange County. It's built on the ranch formerly owned by the family of my Writers of the Future colleague Scott T. Barnes.
So here is the endcap. That is a paperback version of Todd Burpo's Heaven is Real, the story of the little boy who went to heaven and came back - beside the cookbook that has only one copy left. The woman in the black dress is Chelsea Handler. Big Nate (children's book) has outsold Clive Cussler, despite being sandwiched between a James Patterson (ersatz - one of his co-authors) and Handler. There are more Divergents and Allegiants on the other side.
If there were more cookbooks, more Dr. Seuss, and more Todd Burpo, as well as presumably more Johanna Lindsay, there would be more blank spots, I'm certain.
Now, this all doesn't mean that much unless this display looks the same in all the other Ralphs with all similar demographics. Ralphs receives this bestseller "program" from TNG - I've seen it in many stores - it doesn't change much and I do not think it's tailored down to the individual store level.
Now, please don't tell me that people don't read in communities like Aliso Viejo. I'm fairly certain readership is at a high level. In fact, the local library is always crowded, and even supports one of the world's worst coffee shops (which we discovered during NaNoWriMo). The community supports an active NaNoWriMo chapter and several book clubs and writers groups. Now - granted - there's a surviving Barnes & Noble in the same shopping center. Someone who'd buy a book would likely go there - unless they saw the title as an impulse buy, as TNG so helpfully says, for a great price while shopping for groceries. So cookbooks, children's books, Johanna Lindsey. Hm. I heard Historical Romance was dead (this is Cowboy romance). I did not investigate the separate mass market paperback area - I looked only at the hardcovers and trade paperbacks.
Understanding what is up with this: that's marketing. Don't expect TNG to do it all for you publishers. They can only take your books and put them in stores. If you're shoveling Chelsea Handler between covers like there's no tomorrow or can't evaluate that not everything that has James Patterson's name on it is going to be purchased automatically and don't get Todd Burpo then ... well ...
Marketing 101. For writers.