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?
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.
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?
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.
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
Op, if you sell coffee and cake you will prob have to do some of the food hygiene stuff relevant to deli sales anyway.
If I might suggest that being solely a book shop wouldn't work potentially through the problem of holiday seasons. You might need to make alot of trade within a very short time eg 6 mths. I would suggest diversifying. A gift area for decent cards/paper is obvious. Perhaps any art work hung could be a local artists? You getting a % of any sales? Coffee & cakes equally are decent idea with a small seating area.
Otherwise might I suggest specialising in books? Eg children's with toys and gifts (and cards wrapping etc). Or cook books with kitchen equipment eg tea towels, oils, sea salt, local wine etc?
You plainly know ur industry so maybe u know if this is bunkum or not! Just observations from our own holidays. Good luck. Personally if I saw a book shop I'd go in. I'd also be keen to purchase because it was a book shop - I like them. I'd be very disappointed if I came back out without a bag. I have a kindle, but u can't beat a nice bookshop find....
Yes, you are a bit mad although I completely understand as a former bookseller and bookshop lover myself.
I would echo what others have said - you would need to really find a niche in your local market so people will support you. And it would have to be books+ - gifts/cafe/toys... or themed - childrens + gifts/toys, or cookbooks + cookware/demonstrations etc.
My current fantasy business would be yarn shop + craft/knitting books with squashy sofas, workshops, knit and natter
eat cake <sigh>
Yes, you can have author events etc. and these can be profitable
although a lot of people just come for the wine - but you can't have these every week and you need to keep the cash coming in all the time and out of the tourist season.
Amazon and supermarkets can sell books cheaper than you will be able to buy in at trade discounts.
I used to work at Waterstone's. People can now walk into a bookshop, enjoy the browsing experience, bookseller advice and customer service and then just scan the isbn with their phone and order the books there and then from Amazon.
Yes. But add a coffee shop to it. And a gift wrapping station. In my village there is one, absolutely love it, we all go there for presents, coffee, chats. They also do story telling/ reading sessions, so you can sit there with a coffee and a piece of cake while the kid is listening to the story, browse the grown up books, pick up a birthday card, wrap the book in v v nice paper etc.
The books she sells are not chick lit and she knows her stuff. So if she sees you are interested in something specific, she'll order it foryou and next time she sees you she'll bring it to the table with your coffee and say: have a look at this.
She knows my daughter's age and interest and writes little cards with a brief resume under the book and talks to her about the book etc.
if I was visiting your seaside village, I would definitely chose your cafe/ bookshop for an afternoon tea or a rainy morning.
I wouldn't do it but if it worked it would be absolute bliss. Sadly it almost certainly won't work.
I've just come acids Woolfson and Tay which is an Indy bookshop in bank side in London and sells good lunches too. I think it's a great idea. My local water stones has an Indy cafe upstairs with a small book and toy corner for the kids.
I love the idea.
The MN who owns an indie bookshop is nickelbabe if you want to pm her for any advice OP.
I have no experience in this industry so feel free to disregard my post, but I think a children's bookshop could be the way to go. Lots of storytelling author events, book fairs, emphasis on local authors, changing themes (World Book Day, the ocean....). With educational gifts and retro games for children alongside maybe? And maybe crafty or party things (classy party, like Gruffalo party bags or something, not cheap and plasticky). There's a place near me (not uk) which seems to be v popular. It's called bookaburra. U could check out their Facebook page timeline for the sort of things they do if it interests you.
Yes. Oh how I wish I was wrong, but I'm not. Good bookshops are up there among my very favourite things in the world, and my children's too. But the simple fact is that most people are not principled enough (or well off enough) to justify buying from you (even if they've rifled through your stock to make their selection) when they can go home and have it delivered to the door for less money. And kindle is having and will continue to have a catastrophic effect on physical book sales. Especially of the kind that are non-essential impulse purchases, like popular lit paperbacks for holidays.
It might not be a total disaster, but it won't be easy and there are far, far less risky ways to make a living.
You could involve the community by having a "story club" where groups build their own stories which you print, bind and stock.
You could stock as a sideline knitting/sewing/crochet/craft materials for "knit&natter" sessions on the back of the "sewing bee" gravy train.
You could buy people's second hand children's books and resell them. Children's books are often well kept, and the postage is a disproportionate amount of the online price as they are big.
Invite storytellers/illustrators/authors to the shop for workshops.
Make bookmarks and sell them.
Sell e-books in the shop via a web connection, so people can browse a real book but buy an e-book and you still get the sale.
Collect local stories and keep them with the maps for tourists to buy.
thanks BOF, you're definitely right - I know I need to be realistic and take things very slowly.
Just be aware of how tough it is out there too. Proceed with caution.
There is a bookshop near me that opened 2 years ago (in a small village) and she is doing very very well. They won best independent bookshop award last year.
If its a passion then go for it.
Yes, you'd have to do that for love really, as the charity shops have cornered the market really on the high street.
it is my dream to run a second hand book shop but think there isn't a living to be made from it, basically if I won the lottery this us what I would do!
good luck .
There was an article about indies in a recent bookseller and it made the point that while many are suffering / closed, some are thriving. I think those thriving are as others have said, those specialising in children's, involved in community or supplementing books with stationery etc!
great minds think alike MG
one other thing that may well be helpful is that my old boss at the bookshop in London where I used to work has said that they will let me order from them for pretty much cost price. However they are very specialised (travel books and maps) so wouldn't be able to get a full range from them but could get local area guides, OS maps etc.
timidviper - thanks for the link, in my head that's the kind of shop I would love to have
X-post, OP! You sound like you really know your stuff and I wish you lots of luck. It's lovely that there are still
loons keen wannabe booksellers around.
Yes, I think you are wise to be cautious and see how it goes. Good luck!
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