Here’s the kind of stuff we get up to!
It was one of our ‘prosecco nights’ ... the first Saturday of World Book Day (WBD) month. You know that feeling after a really full-on day, when you’re torn between a quick route to wind-down and the excitement of a very timely boost to your income just when the quarterly rent is due!
This year was no exception. At times we looked up from the till and just cracked up – it looked like a horde of (bookish) football supporters had turned up. The shop was packed to the gills...and in that very English way an orderly queue formed stretching out into the road.
We do love the concept of WBD. It gives us a focus for March and heralds a busy programme of author and shop events. Yes it’s what you make of it, but does the message need to be less about the exchange of vouchers and fancy dress parades and more about the love and passion which great books generate?
We’re just home from delivering Mr Connolly’s book, having trudged through feet of snow, repaired his porch door (jammed with ice) and won a pledge of undying customer loyalty…and now we’re thawing out with a glass of wine and pondering over what being a ‘community bookshop’ really means.
Community Bookshop…. it’s a wonderful motherhood-and-apple-pie kind of thing but how does it happen? Not by having it in your Mission Statement: targets, outcomes and performance indicators for achieving degrees of ‘community-ness’. Last week we had a busman’s holiday and managed to visit three indies – all of whom might well consider themselves community bookshops.
Talk about the big freeze…nobody spoke to us, in two shops staff seemed physically attached to the computer and in the third the chap in charge was torn between his mobile and staring out of the window.
No, it’s a much more organic idea. For us it has only happened as the community has become attached to us – rather than us to it. And it happens around the myriad of little things that we do with and for people.
So what do we do? Well, for a start we don’t sell books. Of course we do sell books, but if you just wanted a book (especially a cheap book) you could go on-line and buy from Amazon. No, it’s the experience that we wrap around the book that year-on-year has given us increased footfall. Here’s an illustration.?
For our Christmas window we teamed up with an independent publisher (Barefoot) and decorated the entire shop with over 600 handmade ‘wish boats’ (the template is in the back of Jackie Morris’ Starlight Sailor) – tots, teens, schools, our book clubs, random old folk - they all joined in. This was truly a community event with a terrific feel-good factor and we had great press and radio coverage on three consecutive weeks. Of course we couldn’t have known how successful this would be, but that’s the other thing about being ‘community minded’ – you take an idea, follow your imagination and enjoy the surprise of where it leads you.
Being part of our community also gives us some hilarious ‘going the extra mile’ moments, (particularly around Christmas). Delivering Mrs Nicholls impossibly large book on cats Andrew was rewarded (at the age of 55) with a Toblerone! And in the middle of one of our busiest days, we were asked by the ‘man from the Council’ whether we’d like to be a ‘designated public toilet’ – one bit of being a ‘community’ resource that we decided to pass on even for an £8 weekly payment!
So that’s the kind of stuff that we do which feels ‘community-ish’. Maybe a bit warm and woolly but that’s what makes us Simply Books.