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Am I mad for wanting to open a bookshop?

(55 Posts)

A bit of background... I have moved to a small seaside resort town to live with dp. We live in a flat above a shop on the main high street. The whole building is owned by dp's parents (shop and flat) and we just rent the flat.

The shop below is currently run as a gift shop but the man who runs it has given my in-laws notice and will leave at the end of sept. As far as I know, this is because he is retiring, not because the business is closing.

Basically, my in-laws have given me first refusal on the shop lease. I definitely want to do it. My only question is what sort of shop to open?

My background is in retail and I am fairly confident that I have the skills to run my own shop, but would it be sensible to open a bookshop given the rise of amazon/kindle etc. I was a floor manager, keyholder and buyer in one of the largest independent bookshops in Central London before I moved, so I totally understand the difficulties facing the industry.

But books are my real passion and I am wondering if I should do it anyway?

There are numerous gift shops in the town I live in but no bookshop, the nearest being about 5 miles away in the nearest big town.

I am in the earliest stages of thinking about this - I haven't seen the shop's accounts, not written a business plan or done much in the way of research. I would just really appreciate any thoughts anyone might have. and if not books, then what?

Thanks.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 28-Apr-13 09:04:40

Op, if you sell coffee and cake you will prob have to do some of the food hygiene stuff relevant to deli sales anyway.

izzywotnot Sun 28-Apr-13 09:15:29

I have no retail experience but as a mum, I think regular features such as story telling (for kids), small craft activities (simple things like kits from bakerross.co.uk) maybe one or two mornings a week, would work well particularly if you had a part of the shop themed for children.

I would be inclined to set yourself apart by possibly being the best at one thing rather than trying to please everybody (rarely works in my opinion!) so like other posters have mentioned maybe a kids bookshop with added kids activities.

I really hope things work out for you x

The bookshops that I have seen survive around here do a million and one extras - food, storytime, craft sessions, book club, knitting groups etcs.

If it looks cool and inviting, baby-friendly during the day, knitter-friendly during the evening, you might have a chance, but not if you consider being a bookseller as you main function.

There's a place called Barefoot Books here in Oxford. Their website isn''t very helpful (and I always assumed it was a front for a religious cult, but apparently it really is just that chipper), but they do EVERYTHING and I'm positive that their crafty things and cafe are responsible for far more of their footfall than the actual books.

A small business that I think has done quite well here in Oxford is a knitting/sewing shop called Darn It & Stitch. All the sorts of fabulous things that nobody sells in real life any more, and lots of knitting/sewing/felting/crochet courses.

At the risk of using jargon, social or community engagement is key - you have to offer FAR more than just selling a product.

lougle Wed 01-May-13 06:54:16

Could you set up a messy play centre? All the things children love to do, but parents with small, carpeted homes dread?

You could hold a weekly story telling session, with the book available to buy after?

takeaway2 Wed 01-May-13 07:19:38

There are independent bookshops in Whitstable, kent which is a seaside town. It's quite an affluent place with lots of down from Londoners. They have a regular farmers market by the pier on the weekends and lots of other independent clothes shops, children's shops etc. they have the odd boots and co-op but very few chains. Coffee shops are also independent. So it may be that you need to look at the other shops in your town and see if its viable.

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