Sunday, 18 January 2009

My First Bookselling Christmas... (Part 2: A look back at 2008)

Well, we made it through the first Christmas with only minor scrapes and bruises! Yeay! All of our worries about orders not arriving etc. proved unfounded, and everyone seemed to leave happy with their purchases which is the whole object of the business! Now to analyze the year as a whole...

Books: By a mile, our bestsellers proved to be the local books. Bo'ness folk have oodles of pride in the town and so books such as Bo'ness: A Glimpse of the Past; Bo'ness Speed Hill Climb; Forth at War, and the newly launched Sons O' Brass pretty much flew off the shelves. Truth be told, over Christmas we struggled to keep some of them in stock, but thankfully we were able to get copies to everyone who wanted them at the end of the day. In contrast, the big celebrity biographies are now languishing on the sale shelves...

Busy-ness: As for how busy we were, over the year we've had our busy days and quiet days, and we've definitely spotted a few seasonal trends to work with for next year. Certainly we noticed people began to mutter about Christmas presents right from the start of November, and from then on the shop got steadily busier week after week, with Christmas Eve being our busiest day since opening! (Yep, there still are some last minute buyers out there... thankfully I'm not the only one!)

Opening Hours: Sunday opening proved much more popular in December than in the rest of the year so we've decided to take advantage of this to have a few months without Sunday opening in order to get other things done around the place - organise some better storage in the office, put up some blinds, move a few things around, do a few leaflet drops etc. etc. etc. but Sunday opening will return later in the year (and of course we're happy to open the shop by appointment on a Sunday if that's the only time someone is able to make it... just give us a shout).

What we did well: Not to blow our own trumpet or anything but essentially, we've established a new bookshop in a town that's not had one for decades in the middle of the worst economic recession in living memory. Even if we gave it all up now that's still quite a feat! But looking back there's been a few milestones along the way that are worth recognising:
  • We've had our first ever day trading... and subsequently our first run-in with tax, VAT and account-y type spreadsheets
  • We've built up a fantastic customer base of wonderful book browsers and buyers in the shop, and a brilliant list of enewsletter readers
  • We've established and maintained book supply accounts with local schools, community groups and businesses
  • We've got a pretty nifty website up and running (...with absolutely no website experience!)
  • We've successfully processed hundreds of customer orders
  • We've been shortlisted for an award
  • We've held our first book launch
  • We've visited book groups, community groups, churches and schools
  • We've started a fledgling ticket sales project
  • We've survived our first Christmas season
  • We've been a part of local events such as the Victorian Street Fair, Children's Fair Festival, Christmas lights switch on
  • We've trialled Sunday opening & Late Night opening
  • We've forged relationships with other businesses and groups in the community
  • We've kept the blog going (...even if it's been a little sporadic)
  • We've successfully killed one laptop and three Boston Ferns... erm
  • We've learned a lot about: people, business, politics, supply & demand, accounts, economics, window dressing, the merits of blu-tac & post-it notes, and generally about how to get things done
  • and much, much more...
Improvements for 2009: We hope to start building up a bigger stock of complementary products in the shop over the coming year. We already have some journals, address books, reading glasses etc. as well as a small selection of greetings cards, but we think this all can be expanded to include more pocket money picks for the kids, a greater selection of stationery, gift wrap, book related gifts and a lot more besides. But don't panic... we're still fundamentally a bookshop through and through, and we don't intend to sacrifice our the books for unrelated cheap tat - everything we bring in will be book related.

To Do: So thinking ahead, I've prepared a Top 10 to-do list for this year in the shop (in truth, most of this is not new, but rather stuff we've always planned but which we've not had a chance to get started on till now!):

  1. To expand on the non-book stock we have available, adding new lines as the year progresses
  2. To better organise our own system of shop gift vouchers to go alongside the National Book Tokens we offer
  3. To let more people know about the shop (through more, and better targeted marketing)
  4. To further build up our established enewsletter list, and to expand our existing website - and update it more often!
  5. To find time to set up more of the services we planned to offer right from the start
  6. To organise behind the counter better so things can be found more quickly
  7. To sort out the paper and computerised filing systems so paperwork takes half the time it currently does (... this one might just be a dream!)
  8. To do more book reviews, in the shop, on the blog, the enewsletter and the website
  9. To establish regular offers in the shop
  10. To keep doing everything we've already been doing... but better!

It's by no means an exhaustive list but those are the main points for now (though they could change at any minute!) so this time next year I can look back and see if everything has been achieved! Well, you've got to have a plan right?

So all in all, I think we've had a successful first year - there's been highs and lows, and a ridiculous learning curve to climb (which I've really only just started) but it's been an enjoyable, scary, happy, worrying, brilliant, silly, amazing, stressful, fantastic journey... So here's to the next part - bring on 2009!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Part 2 of the Christmas / festive post will follow in a few days, but I just wanted to write a quick post to say a great big Happy New Year to all our friends, customers, suppliers and blog readers who stop by the website (and the shop) every now and then! I hope everyone had a lovely time over the festive period and that everyone is refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges that may lie in the year ahead! Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009 for us all!