Yes, February has just arrived even though, judging by the recent severe cold, it feels as if it has been February for several months. One bright spot is that more people are curling up in the warmth with a good book! Perhaps confirming that escapism is a factor,our best-sellers list for January (see below) shows a stronger inclination to works of fiction than is usual, with several new titles making the list. History is still popular with local historian Tim Cook (“The Madman and the Butcher”) joining Margaret MacMillan (“The War that Ended Peace”) on the list in informing us about the “Great” War in this anniversary year of its outbreak.
February completes our first year as owners of the bookstore. It has gone quickly. The financial results for the year were very good with a significant increase in revenues and we have been able to put money into improvements in the bookstore such as new equipment and into increased choices of stock. Some challenges remain, of course, but we’re very optimistic about the future.
In the publicity surrounding the new ownership last year we were continually asked the question ‘Why on earth did you do that?” We had two responses. “We think it will be fun” and “We think the bookstore can become a self-sustaining business”. The former has proven true. There has been much to learn but, with the help of our superbly knowledgeable staff, it has been fun. It’s a great place to work except for the temptation to buy books every day. My excuse is that it’s now part of my job to read more books!
As for the second response, we have taken an important step in that direction.
Some of the things that we learned in the last year might interest you. The bookstore is not at all like a library. It is much more dynamic. For example, the average “age” (i.e months the stock has been on the shelves) is about 4-5 months. The average age of the books sold is less than 3 months although this is weighted by the many special orders that are only in our hands for a few days. These numbers are typical for successful bookstores today. Books go back and forth to the publishers (and a lot of paperwork is generated).
Somewhat to my surprise, the book-selling and book appreciation business is also a very social activity. I’m sure we have many “lone” readers but social activities attract many and influence sales. People come in to the bookstore to chat about what they’ve read or might want to read. Our staff gather impressions and pass them on to other customers. We have expanded to two Book Discussion Clubs because of popular demand. Our Books n’Brew sessions giving the opportunity to meet authors (in collaboration with the Clocktower pub) were almost all sold-out, books providing the key to a pleasant social evening. Book launches were similarly popular. We’ll be doing more events in the coming months. Please check our calendar page.
Some areas that we hope to improve on are sales to schools and to teachers for instructional purposes. We offer discounts to encourage such sales (contact any of our staff to discuss your needs and hear how we can help). We have longstanding connections to a few of the local schools- even suggesting lists of titles for school prizes -but there is room to expand our services to others. We also serve some libraries in small municipalities and would be pleased to help more there too.
A final comment is how positive an experience it has been to be part of this neighbourhood, to support neighbourhood initiatives whenever we can and to collaborate with other neighbourhood businesses. Thank you everyone.