About a year after I started working on the floor in the kid’s section at Readings Carlton I looked at the sales of one of my favourite books; I had sold more than 60 copies that year and the author’s backlist had started moving on its own. The previous year it had sold only two copies and looking at those numbers was such a wake-up call to me. I had the power to help keep amazing authors and books from fading away. I have the power to help keep stories alive. That seems kind of magical to me.
She might be a beloved and bestselling author of classic children’s books from Forever to Blubber, but Judy Blume says she wakes up every day “and I look to the sky, and I say, ‘whoever’s up there, I thank you for not having to write today’.”
Blume doesn’t have to write because, at 78, she has embarked on a new career: she’s an independent bookseller. Together with her husband, George Cooper, she has opened a small, nonprofit bookshop in Key West, Florida, where she’s working almost every day. And she’s loving it. She had planned “to take a gap year” after she finished writing and promoting her last novel, In the Unlikely Event. “I was going to relax and read and have this whole time with no pressure. And then bingo – the chance comes along to open a bookshop, and there you go. I guess I like that in my life … To learn something new like this, at 78, makes it all the more exciting.”
Blume and Cooper had been urging Mitchell Kaplan, founder of independent book chain Books & Books, to open a bookshop in Key West for years. He told them that if they could find a space, he would partner with them. They found a corner store, part of a large deco building , and with help from Kaplan and his team, Books & Books @ the Studios of Key West opened in February.
Waterstones has opened Harpenden Books, the third shop to be named after the town in which it is based.
In 2014, Waterstones opened The Southwold Bookshop, so named to reflect that it will be “a quintessentially local bookshop” and last summer the company opened The Rye Bookshop in Kent.
Waterstones managing director James Daunt said: “We are delighted to bring back to Harpenden a proper bookshop. It builds on the great success we have had with Southwold Books in Suffolk and The Rye Bookshop in Kent, towns which had also lost their shops. We are very proud of these local bookshops which, whilst a lot smaller than a standard Waterstones, are exceptionally attractive and well stocked.”
Sonia Benster is to move from selling new books to selling antiquarian, collectible books in partnership with her husband Barry.
This is an excellent profile of her:
Huddersfield’s best-known bookseller, Sonia Benster, has stepped down from the children’s bookshop she founded 40 years ago, but has no plans to retire. At 77-years-young she is embarking on a new literary adventure
More coverage (this time from Digital Book World) of the new Foyles store – going to be worth a trip to Birmingham just to visit…
The 4,300sqft bookshop, designed by lustedgreen, stocks a range of 15,000 titles and includes a number of digital innovations for enhancing customer service and experience. Only the second branch to be opened by the family-owned business outside of London in recent years, Foyles Grand Central employs fourteen expert booksellers under the management of Steven Harmon.
Digital enhancements include:
– three audio-visual author pods and a children’s story pod, where customers can hear and see best-selling writers read their work aloud
– booksellers with handheld tablets, running a new Foyles web platform offering access to a range of millions of books
– digital signage throughout the store including a floor-to- ceiling display screen
Positioned on the upper concourse, it sits next to John Lewis and The White Company in the landmark new retail development.
The first authors to feature in the AV pods, designed by Audionation, will be Simon Schama, Neil Oliver and some of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted authors. In the story pod children will be able to enjoy Michael Rosen performing his new poems.
A live author talks programme is also planned for an events space accommodating 30-40 people. Cressida Cowell, author of the multi-million selling ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series will open the children’s department on Saturday 17 October. Foyles has today announced further events including face-painting and a goody bag give-away on Saturday 26 September, and a Star Wars Reads Day on 10 October to mark the publication of the official new novel ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ by Chuck Wendig.
Family audiences are central to the vision for Foyles in Birmingham, with children’s books a particular focus. Readers will also be able to enjoy the usual extensive Foyles range of fiction and non-fiction, with cookery, travel, music and more stocked alongside specially selected stationary and gifts.
The new in-store version of the Foyles website is designed for iPads, which all of the staff will be carrying to help them handle customer enquiries and orders on the go. The platform allows staff to respond to stock enquiries and, if an item is not in stock, order books for customers for delivery straight to their homes.
Recently recruited by Foyles as manager of the new store, Steven Harmon brings with him a wealth of retail experience in a number of different sectors in the region, having previously worked at Superdry, Hotter Comfort Concept shoes and most recently the stationery specialist Blott. He will report to Foyles Trading Director Siôn Hamilton and work closely with Janette Cross, Head of Customer Experience, to deliver excellent service.
Foyles Grand Central Birmingham is similar in size and style to existing Foyles branches in Westfield Stratford City, London Waterloo Station and Royal Festival Hall, also designed by lustedgreen. The opening brings the total number of Foyles bookshops up to six, with four branches in London, one in Bristol and one in Birmingham.
Siôn Hamilton, Trading Director of Foyles, comments:
“This is 21st century bookselling. We wanted a shop that affords a wide range of options to delight customers however they wish to connect with us. We are using technology to empower our staff, to share their love of books and to provide a more interactive and personal experience for our customers. By enabling booksellers with hand-held digital devices, we also are able to greatly increase the range that we can provide in our smaller stores and to respond better to customer needs.”
Simon Heafield, Marketing Manager of Foyles comments:
“With Foyles Grand Central, Birmingham we’ve embraced the latest digital technology to bring books to life, and author and readers closer together. We have taken the opportunity to enliven the instore experience by showcasing great books in an exciting new way. All of these technologies can be turned on and off and will be used in a sensitive manner. We are aware that many customers think of bookshops as an oasis of calm and these customers will be just as happy in the shop.”
The shop’s opening hours will extend following the acquisition and the shop’s book clubs will grow to include translated fiction and crime.
Nicklin, whose agency is based in London’s Mayfair, said she wanted to buy the shop as she believes the industry is entering an era of entrepreneurialism in which people with experience in the industry are undertaking multiple functions, from agenting and bookselling to hosting literary festivals.
Nicklin said: “I have always been fascinated by the days of the first John Murray, when Fleet Street was teeming with entrepreneurs engaged in every aspect of literary activity from bookselling to printing, publishing and distribution. We are entering a similar era now, as people with extensive experience of the book industry create companies that undertake multiple functions, from agenting, bookselling and e, p and magazine publishing, to events and festivals, classes, prizes, and lively salons.”
She added: “It’s exciting to be part of this neo-literary entrepreneurialism in which retail plays such a crucial role in the cross fertilization of expertise. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work again in partnership with the authors and organisations industry-wide in developing and progressing platforms and outlets that enrich the experience of book lovers everywhere.”
When Fiona Stager and Kevin Guy decided to expand their Brisbane book business, they considered setting up a stand-alone cooking and travel book store.
But when they took a closer look at their sales records at their existing Avid Reader bookstore, they realised there was a much more lucrative market to tap into.
“When I looked at the sales data I knew it had to be children and young adults,” Ms Stager said. “We were crammed and still selling lots of children’s books, so we decided to take the risk at setting up a dedicated store.”
At long last Waterstones has a website worthy of a big bookselling retailer.
The new look/design is a huge improvement on the ‘pathetic’ [Daunt’s own description] previous offering.
The site is beautifully ‘responsive’, making it user-friendly on whatever device you’re using.
The landing page is crisp and clear.
And the navigation tab opens up to show a full listing of the online shop’s different ‘departments’.
I would like to see more detail on the individual title listings. The Publisher and ISBN should be included in the box that shows the price, rather than underneath the synopsis.
Amazon is more successful in summarising basic descriptive information. For the same title:
And also in linking to other editions.
But all good websites are works in progress and I’m sure Waterstones will want to make improvements in its listings design in the weeks and months ahead.
What the site does really well is promoting its John Lewis style Click-and-Collect service. A good deal of thought has clearly been given to making the website a user-friendly experience for this type of buying. In most cases, the online price will be lower than the store price.
How well this works out in practice will be a determining factor on customer satisfaction. It does mean that individual stores will need to be very on top of their stock audits and that this information will need to be updated to a central database. I assume that this will be done through the till, at point of sale. It is not altogether clear whether the click-and-collect service will apply to same day purchases.
A shame that the site’s copy-editors have let that ‘recieve’ slip through 🙁
It’s been a time a-coming, but on the whole then, an extremely promising relaunch.
The UK’s leading high street bookseller said that sales of the Kindle ebook reader had plummeted this Christmas as a physical books market battered by ecommerce showed signs of improvement.
Waterstones said that sales of Amazon’s ebook reader had “disappeared to all intents and purposes”. The lossmaking chain of 290 bookshops had previously touted Kindle as the way to “solve the digital question” in 2012 when it launched a partnership with Amazon to sell the devices.
However, physical book sales at Waterstones rose 5 per cent in December as the company reaped the benefits of its store refurbishment programme and a relinquishing of control to local store managers who could respond to the tastes of local communities, said James Daunt, chief executive.
Foyles, the London chain of bookstores, said like-for-like sales of physical books had risen 11 per cent this Christmas. Sam Husain, chief executive, said sales of Barnes & Noble’s ebook reader the Nook were “not as impressive as one would expect them to be” and that physical book sales had outperformed ebooks.
The Bookshop Book is this year’s official Books Are My Bag book. How did you feel when you heard this news?
I’d met Meryl Halls – who runs Independent Booksellers Week – before, and we’d discussed doing something together in the future. Earlier this year we met up for coffee and had a chat. The Bookshop Book, which I was writing at the time, seemed to be the perfect match for their BAMB campaign. We knew it would be silly not to team up, so we had a chat with Constable (my publishers), and off we went!