Monday, December 31, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Ten things to do while the Solicitors, Banks and Assorted offices have an unnecessarily long Christmas break. (It's only one day for God's sake..... Sorry, been in corporate retail toooo long)
1) Buy Tea (Simon has his coffee maker all sorted, but what about those of us who are old enough to remember life before "Friends"?)
2) Buy kettle (Ever tried to make tea in a coffee maker?)
3) Buy coffee table (Why isn't it called a tea table?)
4) Discuss lay out for sign with sign makers. (I believe the guys we're using are French, giving them tea is probably an insult)
5) Chat to old chum Neil at Autumn. (Tea for the chat. Coffee or brandy to recover)
6) Create account form and advertising for local schools, and decide opening offers or events. (Why does a coffee morning sound so much cooler than a tea morning? Go on, say it out loud. Do you see what I mean?)
7) Get price for flooring. (preferably something green, but not Ottakar's green, and dark enough to hide the tea stains which will no doubt appear)
No, damn you I am not fixated!!!
8) Buy cash registers. (Wipe clean surface..... No reason)
9) Buy clock. (Got to time those ... er... breaks)
10) Design new and groovy shelving for picture flats. (Having re-defined Kids' bookselling - it's a secret, but we're really, really proud of it - we are now going to re-design picture flat merchandising. On only two mu.... nevermind)
Oh, yeah. Simon's going to put together a little order for a few kids books.... You know, I rather think I got the better deal.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Woooooooooooo, it's Boxing Day so let's go and shop! It's been a good 40 hours since I got back from the shops and my brain can't compute! I must hit the high streets and look at all the things I don't really want or need, that are on sale at half the price they might be if I don't buy them now!
Look how happy I am, can you see my smiling face? No? I must be tying my shoelace up in this picture then, cos everyone loves shopping don't they.
No no, it's the emotion of not being able to shop on Xmas day. Why don't they make the shops open, so then I wouldn't be forced to spend 40 hours with my family.
I'm not a fan of shops being open on Boxing Day. Mainly, I feel it's unfair on the people who have to work on this day. Let's take Bookshops...
Firstly, these are people in retail and so don't get paid very much anyway, so it's a kind of tax on the poor. People in better paid jobs, like publishing for example (!), get about 2 weeks off over xmas.
Secondly, the argument that people who work in shops know what they've let themselves in for (shops open over xmas so if you work in a shop it's your own fault), is nuts. I started in bookselling in 1984, we didn't open on Sundays and the idea that we would work later than 7pm was frowned upon. Up till 4 years ago we didn't open on Boxing Day. Up till 2 years ago we didn't have 24 hour shifts in December (something that was introduced because the shop was too busy to restock/tidy during the day). I'm no luddite but let's just say you work as a teacher and suddenly it's decided that you have to work during the holidays and over xmas. You wouldn't be too happy about that would you? Unfortunately this is what happened to opening hours in shops. Having a sale on Boxing Day means that after the shops close on Xmas Eve people have to stay to put the sale in (not for time and a half or double time as well), so it isn't just the time that the stores are open that there are people there.
Yes, temps do cover a lot of these hours(usually for a very basic wage), but as a full time bookseller you're expected to 'be flexible' over xmas. Which means if the Directors (who are sitting on their fat ar....mchairs at home) decide that your shop needs to stay open until 11pm and open at 7am, then you have to do it.
What'll happen soon is that the pressure will start on the publishers to open straight after xmas in order to supply the shops, then the distributors and so on. Anyone who works in publishing won't like that very much I imagine. I don't imagine that's what you thought you'd let yourself into when you got the job.
I think that having recovery shifts (working when the shop's closed to tidy/restock) is necessary and I also think that extending opening hours is reasonable. But by accepting so readily that shops should open on Boxing Day is quite dangerous. It's only one step away from saying 'let's open on Christmas day'. And i'm not sure too many people would want that (until it happens).
I had a lovely Christmas, me. Katie and I stayed in London, and spent the day itself eating, playing with our presents, and watching sentimental films on TV.
Below is the shining star of all my presents. It's a Steepletone retro record player, and Katie has won a few million brownie points for this one.
Now, if you happened to go to Waterstone's on Charing Cross Road in the mid-late nineties, you would have probably heard some rather obscure music being piped through the shop. This was mainly down to Mr Alister Babb, ably assisted by yours truly. It was at that time that we were both very much into Lounge music and the mighty Moog synthesizer. We trawled charity shops and made up some amazing compilation tapes that we eagerly brought into the shop and played, hooting with laughter at the most obscure recordings that we found.
Sadly my record player packed in a few years ago and my rather large stack of LPs have remained unplayed since. So imagine my delight at being able to bring the super sensational sound of the swinging sixties back into the living room. Two of my favourites are below. The first is Studio2stereo climax. Harry Roche's version of Hawaii Five O is awesome.
But the king of my collection has to be the great Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass. There are so many things I could say about how much I enjoy these albums and choosing one paricular LP as his best is very hard. But S.R.O. is a perfect Alpert. 'Flamingo', 'Mexican Road Race', 'Mame' are all on here. The highlight has to be 'Beanbag' or as most people know it the It's a Knockout themetune. Pure joy!
I've kept my love for lounge very quiet until now. It'll certainly be a surprise to Tim. It may confuse some people who know me, as I also enjoy Doom and Thrash Metal, Guitar based Indie and 2-tone amongst other genres.
I now need to get a few mixtapes ready for opening day at the shop!
Monday, December 24, 2007
I've promised to have a break from the blog tomorrow, and now the virtual advent calendar has finally reached it's frogtastic finale, you can now hang your stockings up and leave the sherry out in preparation for Santa.
Something to make your xmas go with a ddddfff-ddddfff-dddff
Have a lovely time everyone, and thanks for all your continued support. Here's hoping for a Big Green New Year.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
A Christmas Tweet
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Having had such a bumper year, me and Tim have decided to go all out this year and are blowing our xmas profit on a whopping party....
OK, seeing as we haven't opened the shop yet, and therefore didn't make any money , Tim and Julie have kindly invited Katie and I round for a meal, with perhaps a glass or two of wine. So no photocopier to copy your bits on and no awkward standing around in the corner with the people from your department thinking of stuff to say that isn't about work, drinking far too much and waking uo the next morning staring at the ceiling desparately trying to remember if you did anything really embarrassing.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Despite everything, this has been my first day off for ages. I have in fact done nothing bookshopworthy for a whole day. I am a little bit of an obsessive, as Tim will happily tell you, after i've bombarded him with crazy ideas that have kept me awake the previous night. It worries me occasionally, that even when the shop opens i'll be like this, and sneak back to the shop in the dead of night to rearrange the cookery section by price or something equally strange.
I think it's a question of control. I'm not in control of things at the moment, and i'm relying on Landlords, solicitors, and building societies to sort stuff out that I can do nothing about. This makes me feel uncomfortable, and as such my mind tries to redress the balance by bouncing around loads of ideas. It'll hopefully prove really useful, as i've now got a long long list of things that we can try in the shop. I guess it's already helped, as it meant that we've shamelessly contacted hundreds of people to tell them about the shop, and requested help.
The response from this has been amazing, and it sometimes astounds us that we've had so much interest and support. We are listed in the Bookseller this week as one of their 'Bookshop Perfect 10' of new independent bookshops, i've secured a regular slot in Retail Week, and as Tim has mentioned before, we have had interest from BBC television (of which we can hopefully tell you more about soon!). We'd have never had time to get all this sorted if we had a shop to run, so it's all swings and roundabouts innit.
And now our solicitor is on holiday until the new year, so there's nothing we can do until he comes back. I might explode. So, if anyone wants their car washed or their drain unblocked, give me a call. I warn you that I might be going through an Usborne catalogue for the 5th time making sure that we have all the titles we need, or trying out a variety of tills to see which one has the best action, but you might be lucky.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
A long time ago King Tim ruled the kingdom of Waterstone's (now part of HMV), there worked a young man called Simon, who worked hard and for long hours and enjoyed his job very much. He travelled far and wide selling books and spreading the good word. At the same time in the rival kingdom of Ottakars run by the Emperor James, a hard working fellow called Tim also worked long and hard spreading the good word.
As time went by King Tim adbicated and a succession of Kings tried to rules the kingdom and make it more powerful. The latest King, King Gerry plundered the land and took control of the kingdom of Ottakar's, and changed it's name to Waterstone's. And he was glad. The kingdom was big and mighty and no commision in the land could stop it.
Presently Simon moved North to a small place called Wood Green, where he met Tim. They got on very well and they spread the good word together. The townsfolk of Wood Green were glad.
The kingdom of Waterstone's was now too big to be ruled properly, and King Gerry and his advisors decided to sell off ten percent of the kingdom to ensure that the Waterstonians complied with all it's rules. One part of the kingdom they sold was Wood Green, and the townsfolk were thrown into the literary wilderness. Despite much prayer and a petition, the decision was already made, and Tim and Simon were no longer able to spread the good word.
Then, one night and angel visited them both and said to them 'fear not, for you have been chosen to give birth to a new bookshop, and it shall be called 'the Big Green Bookshop'.
Simon and Tim were sorely afraid, but had faith that this was what they had to do, and set off to bear this immaculate conncept. They first of all had to find somewhere for the birth and looked all over the town of Wood Green. They tried many places, but were turned away as rents were far to high for their humble pockets. In time they found a place and after much negotiation they secured these stable premises.
Now many miles away, booksellers were watching their stock by night, and the angel came to them and told them about the wonderful news. 'but how shall we find the shop?' they asked the angel. 'just follow the Bookseller to the Stars, and he will guide you.' the angel replied.
News of the great event travelled far and wide thanks to BLOG, the messenger angel, who told stories of how Tim and Simon were progressing. Wise men came from the many publishing empires offering the Golden Notebook, Frankenstein and Murder mysteries to the new shop at wonderful discounts.
The story isn't over yet, and Tim and Simon are heavy with shop at the moment. They hoped to have been able to bear a small Christmas treat, but the Lords of the Land had other ideas. It will happen and there will be much celebrating in North London and parties will be thrown in which all the loyal followers will be invited. In the meantime, the kingdom of Waterstone's and the other big kingdoms of Borders and WHSmith continue to reign. But there are a few villages that, despite being small, are full of happy folk who are looked after and loved, and soon there will be another one in Wood Green.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
the Cat in the Hat.
So, do spider's belch? (see post below) This is impossible to discover at the moment, as most spiders have the sense to hide in the cold weather, but I foresee many hours in the Spring spent with my ear pressed to spiders' webs and a pipette of Stella poised, listening for that tell-tale arachnid burp.
This week has been a whirl of school Christmas events. One fete, two shows and two parties. I found myself behind the counter of the 'Book and Toy' stall, proving that I am a brilliant retail manager. "Only 50p for this?" one lovely mum asked, clutching a Buzz Lightyear playset. "Yup," I replied. "It's broken, has bits missing and is covered in something sticky....." "It's still a bargain," she said, and pressed a coin into my hand. Honesty is the best policy.
Pride welled, as I watched my two boys in their respective Christmas shows dance out of time, mumble their lines and glow with a healthy embarrased red (especially when Harry's drum teacher invited me to 'have a go' on one of the kits as the other parents were filing out. That cleared the hall a bit quicker, I can tell you)
My Wife - who I am not allowed to mention - has just told me that I am being unfair to George - my eldest, who I am not allowed to mention - He did not mumble his lines. He spoke them very clearly. There, is everybody happy now?
Damn, now I'm wondering what the arachnid equivalent of 'pardon me' is.
Oh, I've spoken to the solicitor and a couple of the financial people involved this week. I don't know if they dance in time or mumble their lines, but some of them should be really red.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Well, we never could have predicted what happened to us this year. On a personal note, I moved to Wood Green Waterstone's in January, bought a flat with my girlfriend in July, lost my job in August, started a limited company in November with a man who this time last year i'd only met once, started a blog, borrowed £x from a bank and that's just the stuff I can tell you!
So what chance have we got in predicting what'll happen in 2008. Let's find out.
January; The BIG GREEN bookshop opens to fanfares and there is celebrating in the streets of North London well into the night. Our first customer brings a book back that they got at Christmas, claiming 'it was definitely bought here'.
February; Crockatt & Powell II opens in the cosmopolitan Fulham Road. It is called Powell & Crockatt after a furious argument between Matthew and Adam, and the first customer buys '4 yards of books to fill my new shelves'.
March; Scott Pack reveals that the rumours are true, he is Steve Stack, author of 'It Is Just You, Everything's not Shit'. He also admits to being John TwelveHawks and The Batman.
April; Profits soar at Waterstone's after a sticker misprint means that their latest promotion is a 2 for 3. WH Smith quickly counters this with a '50% on' promotion for their top 40 hardbacks.
May; JK Rowling donates for charity a fart in a jam jar. Amazon buy it for $3.6million, and runs a competition in which the winner gets to open the jar.
June; Claiming 'every little helps', Tesco starts just selling just the last chapters of books, and circling the bits that we should read.
July; publishing assistants at a large publishing House get a 15% pay rise, but turn it down saying ,'we get paid enough already'.
August; Christmas promotions start in earnest at Borders, WH Smiths, and Waterstone's.
September; An updated Kindle is released which vibrates and has flick pictures in the corner of the book, because nobody who buys one is really interested in reading are they?October; Katie Price wins the Man Booker prize for Shiny, her latest novel. Michael Portillo calls it 'a tour-de-force'.
November; Top selling xmas titles start to come through the pack, including 'do spiders belch?', 'the slighlty Adventurous book for Grannies', 'Jamie on rollerskates' and 'Hammond, May and Clarkson ridicule stuff surrounded by goons lapping up every little thing they do'.
December; The BIG GREEN bookshop sells it's 1000th copy of Life in the UK. Our last customer of the year brings a book back that they got at Christmas, claiming 'it was definitely bought here'....
you mark my words, it's all gonna happen.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I'm Melting, i'm meltling, who ever thought that a little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!
Welcome to this star studded event, and without further ado, lets get on with proceedings.
The Otis Ferry Award for Best Protest ;
Kumari Salgado for organising the marvellous demo outside the Waterstone's in Wood Green on the day it closed
The Napoleon Boiler Parts Award for best Suggestion for our Shop's Name;
Funny Bunny Bookshop
notable enries included 'Waterstone's 2 (this time it's personal)', 'Look, Book!' and the completely reasonable 'Every book in the World'.
The Northern Rock Award for Investment;
Lloyds Bank for trusting the pair of us with their money
The John Darwin Award for Loss of Memory;
the present occupier of our shop to be, who forgot to turn up at the Estate Agents every Friday for 4 weeks when he was due to sign papers.
The Sue Pollard Award for Distinguished Service In the Field of Fashion;
Timothy 'Wild, Wild' West, and his magnificent waistcoats and cowboy hat.
The Steve Mclaren Award for being Hoplessly Out of Their Depth;
Colleen McLoughlin who will need to learn how to write so she can do her books for the chains to sell at 3 for 2.
The Mister Magoo award for Short-sightedness;
The Individual who decided to close the waterstone's in Wood Green in spite the shop destroying it's budgets.
The 'Heat' award for celebrity spotted in Glamorous Wood Green Waterstone's
the Genius that is Stewart Lee (the 41st best ever stand-up), checking out the biography section (probably trying to find something that didn't involve abuse).
The UKIP award for a total misguided waste of time;
Morrison's selling Harry Potter 7 at £4.99, and for trying to make us believe that Lulu and Alan Hansen are mates.
The Gordon Brown award for promising more than was delivered;
Amazon for the Kindle thingy
and finally the highlight of the evening
The Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble award for patience under immense pressure.
Julie and Katie, our better halves, who have encouraged and supported us despite everything.
Thankyou both so much and we promise it will be worth it.
that concludes the ceremony. Look out for our predictions for 2008, coming soon.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
only 10 days to go!!
So, I hear it's not that busy on the high street. We're not missing much then.............
Finally after a late surge from choices 2 and 5, you voted for this to be our logo
This will soon be seen emblazoned on our shopfront (it 's actually gonna be on the shop side, but more of that nearer opening time), and then on our second and third stores later in the year.
A few posts ago I cracked open that old chestnut (chestnuts are traditional fare for Christmas) about discounting books. My purpose was to keep this issue in the public arena, and to ask if we can actually trust best seller lists as they are so obviously manipulated. And so to my own opinions
1) I genuinely believe that intelligent, well considered price promoting can be a boon to the individual store.
2) I equally believe that while nationwide discounting that can help some titles in some geographical areas, it can be equally detrimental to the profit that can be made from those same titles in other areas. (Yes, I have good examples)
3) We should definitely keep debating this issue. To simply accept that "Price promoting is the way it is" is a cop out. As a race we have had taxation - in one form or another - for thousands of years, and yet we still discuss that, so why shouldn't we question the validity of one marketing tool?
4) Price promoting in the chain bookstores - lets ignore the supermarkets for a moment - has reached an epidemic. There is no other reaction to success (or failure) than to quickly reduce the price of the title in question. (As a manager I once had two emails on the same day. Email one; Such-and-such is not performing well, put it in the 3for2 and move it to the front of store. Email two; Such-and-such is performing really well, put it in the 3for2 and move it to the front of store.)
5) Booksellers are - on the whole - the most persuasive sales-people in the world. IF they are allowed to sell the books they love. And therefore do not need this kind of 'help'.
I know that everybody won't agree with me, and quite frankly I'm glad about that. Simon and I do not agree on everything. 'Yes we do'. If everybody agreed with me the world would be a very dull place...... but the buses would be some really weird colours, and flowers wo..... sorry, drifted off for a moment....
Anyway, about that headline. "Lindsay, I love you..."
I have copied the comment from the whole discounting debate that I really love (and agree with) the most, and stuck it here. Read it. Read it NOW.
I think what you've said about having a well chosen selection of books, customer service etc is key. The big chain stores are so boring!!! I love to read, and will pretty much read anything, but I find myself walking into the Waterstones and Borders of this world and just feeling so BORED with the endless, continual cycle of 3 for 2s. I know that discounting has introduced books to a wider market, and anything that has encouraged more people to read is a good thing, but where is that excitement that I used to get when I walked into a book store? The anticipation of picking up something amazing, so fantastic that I want to stay up all night reading it? Booksellers who would recommend fantastic things, rather than the stuff the publishers have shelled out most of their marketing budgets to get in the Christmas catalogue? It's not there any more and the constant discounting is killing it! I really hope that publishing and book selling will start to turn around and go the way that consumers are starting to demand from food retailing: quality, provenance, joyous, local, independent produce and shops which they will pay a fair price for. I think if the average reader realised just what the chains and supermarkets are doing to this once creative industry they might start to value books more and pay a decent price for them, the same way we have started to wise up to what they have done to farmers and food producers.That's my late night rant over! And I'll definitely be popping over from Hackney when you open!
Lindsay, I love you.
Lindsay, I think you're lovely too.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The Candleblurry Tales
am i getting on your wick yet?
i'm not waxing lyrical, that's for sure.
it took me wicks to think these up.
Don't worry, it's almost the wickend
please don't be 'put out' by these terrible jokes
I'm going to bed now.....
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Just to clear things up, the winner of this competition will be the font we use on our shop front, our headed paper, our advertising, our newsletters. It's going to be part of our brand, and we're letting you decide.
So, let's got through them one at a time
1. It's a bold statement. It's clear from a long way away, and quirky when you get closer to it.
2. Ah, the typewriter with the ink running out. It's smudgy, it's literary, it's kinda 'Murder She Wrote'.
3. Magpie, Rainbow, 70's chic. How can you not want this to win. It cheers me up whenever I look at it.
5. This reminds me of that Stone Age comic strip that I can't think of the name of.. something to do with 'ID' (help me out here).... or captain caveman. Another reason to vote for it.
VOTE VOTE VOTE. Change your vote if you feel the need. But please VOTE VOTE VOTE.
Ooh, i'd better open the advent calendar...
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Hey, it's that thing that bob-bob-bobs along, on a bauble
So we're opening in January...probably. It's probably turned out OK really. So far we've opened accounts with Bertram, Harpercollins, Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, Turnaround, Littlehampton and we have Bookpoint, Baker and Taylor, Pearson, Central Books, PGUK and Thames and Hudson in progress. The tricky thing is persuading the individual publishers to give us better terms. Cos' we're little we have to contact each publisher individually to request extra discount.
Can I take this opportunity to say to any publisher out there who we haven't contacted, please get in touch, offering huge discounts extended credit and chocolate. It's not like you've got anything to do at this time of year is it?!
So, for example, we have an account with Littlehampton. We can order from any of their publishers but we have to call each individual publisher that they distribute to negotiate terms. It takes time, but these extra few weeks have given us the time to do more of this.
We will be placing the majority of our opening stock order through Bertram's, as they've offered us very competitive terms, which a lot of publishers can only match. This isn't an advert for Bertam's, but I have to say they've been really supportive, and despite the fact that we're a new business with no credit history as yet, are being great. Not only this, but by signing up with them, they have offered us 2 computers, a printer, and a flexible stock control system (bertline) free of charge.
They've also told us that our order will be delivered by category! So if we order say 100 gardening titles, these will be delivered in a box marked 'gardening'.
It all seems very good!
We will be ordering some of our stock from alternative sources, like Penguin and Turnaround, either because our terms are better or they stock a load of titles that Bertram's don't.
Tim, being the clever one (by the way Tim, you're the clever one), has been putting our order through Pubeasy, a website that lets us know what's in stock at various publishers. He is filtering our entire order through this website, so if it's not available at Bertram's we'll get it through another source.
So that sorts that out.
I shudder to tell you about our latest 'amusing' little episode with the Landlord/solicitors. All I can say is that something was posted to our solicitor in October, it didn't get there, but noboody noticed, despite it apparently being what the hold up was all about. 6 weeks.....nobody noticed....
Anyway, like the new judge of the Orange Prize says ' At worst I feel bad for a while,But then I just smile, I go ahead and smile.' wise words Lily...
I just have 2 simple questions for all youse out in blogland. How do you spell 'West'? and can you tell the difference between 6 and 8? If the first answer is not 'W. E. S. T.' and the second is 'No' then a career awaits you in the financial sector. Extra points if you can lose post, make up rules on the spot and deny everything.....
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
.....hey, look it's one of those things that bob-bob-bobs along.
another day of ordering, and making contact with publishers. It's not glamorous, but it is useful.
In the absence of anything specifically TBGB, here's a few things wot are in my head.
Crockatt and Powell look like they're going to be opening a second bookshop in a site right opposite where the Pan Bookshop is now. Read about it here . Isn't that brilliant!
Charlie Brooker is number 44 in the bestseller charts, which is brilliant!
I wonder if all you booksellers out there have ordered extra copies of 'On the Road'. If you don't know why have a looky wook at the TV listings this week.
I feel like eating a chilli tonight, but we don't have any mince meat
There maybe a shortage of Holly this year, but I know a place 5 minutes walk away that's got loads!
I don't think Ruby Wax has any redeeming features
Have I paid my council tax?
Am I going to get some Stilton for Xmas?
I should have told Bookseller to the stars what my favourite book of the year was.
I wonder what my favourite book of the year was.
I really want a chilli.
Monday, December 10, 2007
'It's A Cracker'
Ah, my Dad would have been proud of me with a joke like that.
So, Monday......well, I didn't wake up at 4am, which was a bonus. I made the obligatory phone calls to the Estate Agents, and there was a positive spin on our conversation. I'm not holding my breath though. There's still loads of ordering to do and still some negotiating with our lovely lovely distributors (who are all lovely and that extra 4% would be great). I spoke to Amanda from Baker and Taylor who we hope to have a very fruitful relationship with, as I can't imagine there'll be too many US imports in the WH Smiths down the road. She told us that there was a lot to said for getting in the Kid's imports and we'll definitely be looking into it in the new year.
But enough about trivial things like books. On Friday I purchased the essential item of any business. The Coffee Maker. As you can see it's a digital one, and has a 12 cup capacity and as well as the hot plate to keep the coffee warm for longer, it also has an adjustable strength selecter. Just look at it ............
So we're sorted really aren't we.
On the Font for the shop competition, despite number 4 still winning, there's still a chance for a late surge from any of the others (please). As i've said before, if you need a better view of them, just click the thing underneath them and you'll be redirected to a bigger version.
Oh, and Tim. The Bookseller needs a picture of us together by Wednesday, so we'd better scrub up again.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Every Monday for the last 4 or so weeks i've woken up at about 4am and thought 'OK, let's see where we are...'
and for the last 4 or so weeks it seems that we haven't got anywhere.
I phone our estate agent up every Monday at about 10am and ask him what the situation is.
He then tells me about what he's waiting for from the other solicitors and so on and so forth, and I then ask him if he can keep me informed about anything that happens, and I also ask him to chase stuff up. He says yes and at about 2 pm he sends me an email telling me he's chased stuff up.
In the meantime me and Tim have talked and I swear a lot about how useless everyone is and he calms me down and reassures me and reminds me about all the things we have achieved in the last week. He's very good at putting things into perspective.
I imagine that it'll be the same this week, although I cautiously say that most of things that the estate agent is chasing, have been chased, caught up with and overtaken. I'm not even going to contemplate when any breakthrough will be made, but it can't be too long now.....can it?...CAN IT?
Saturday, December 08, 2007
'I hope someone unwraps the kitty litter soon...'
Having spent the last 18 days putting together the opening stock order, I thought it was about time I left the house and stretch my legs. I didn't much fancy cycling so I caught a bendy bus to Oxford Street. I had a copy of Stunt Monkeys by Martin Chatterton to keep me amused on my journey.
First stop was my old stomping ground, the Waterstone's near Tottenham Court Road. Once I'd got past all the Sharon Osbournes and Booky Wooky Books, I had a good catch up with my uniform wearing ex-colleagues. I tried not to put them off too much...
Then, my first trip to Crockatt and Powell in Lower Marsh. Adam and Matthew certainly have the right idea, and by the number of customers they had whilst I was in there, and by their enthusiasm and excellent customer service and their carefully and well picked stock, it was like a breath of fresh air from the big W.
I nicked up to Thames and Hudson publishers after that to drop in some chocolate and to catch up with some friends, and then after a visit to John Lewis to buy a coffee maker for the shop I visited the 'New' Waterstone's on Oxford Street. This is the latest 'New' branch on Oxford Street (the last 'New' one closed down earlier this year).
Whilst the shop was very busy, to be honest, it didn't look like a Waterstone's. With the neutral white shelving and lack of branding, it could have been a Border's or a Blackwell's if you didn't know any better. Maybe this doesn't matter any more, but it's certainly in a prime location.
Then a quick trip to the pub with Katie to see Mark, another friend who's jumped from the good ship W............and then home to bed.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Booze and Cakes
I've been out all day and i'm off to bed now. I've had a lovely day and i'll tell you all about it tomorrow. Keep voting for the font. IF YOU CAN'T SEE THE FONTS CLEARLY PRESS THE THING UNDERNEATH THAT SAYS 'PRESS HERE FOR A BETTER VIEW OF THE FONTS'. I can't beleive you're still voting for number 4 after all I said!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I sorted out sport stock, and I've had a very very good idea for an event at the end of January (i'll tell you about it later Tim)
Please keep voting for the Big Green Bookshop sign. My favourite isn't winning at the moment, so if you feel sorry for me don't vote for number 4.
If you have a look at Scott Pack's Blog he's advertising a Charity Auction on E-Bay. The postcards are all pretty cool, it is for charidy, so instead of spending £150 on a xmas booze up or somesuch nonsense, this would be a much better option.
I'm off to Crouch End in a moment to do a little late night shopping and to sing carols.
Please continue to air your views, if any, about discounting.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Price promoting, is it really necessary?
There, that should set felines amongst Trafalgar based tweeties.
I know a lot of authors read this blog, and I just wondered how you feel when you see money off stickers pasted all over your pride and joy, and don't just go for the "Well, it's the way the industry works..." answer. That's a cop out. I want to know how you really feel. (cue concerned look and possible knee stroking)
To the booksellers who read this blog, tell me how you feel about the whole price promoting issue. Do we think that books would sell just as well if they weren't money off. Do we think that some books would just wither and die without this extra help? (Dan Brown, I'm looking at you)
To the book buyers who read this blog - and let's face it, that's everybody - how much does a promotion really affect your decision to buy?
There is a reason for this debate. We've been checking out best sellers, and everything in the charts is price promoted. Did they get there on merit, or money off?
Go anonymous for this one. Let's have the truth.
In addition to Tim's interesting question, do you think that there's too much price promotion going on? I imagine that the less money that bookshops make on a book, then the less the publisher makes and therefore the author's percentage is likely to be less. It seems to me that it's now got to a point that the moment any interest is shown in a title, there's a kneejerk reaction by bookshops/online to discount it or stick it in a promotion. It almost devalues the book.
I might be talking out of Tim's hat, and the authors and publishers just want to see those sales figures going up and up, but I dunno.
you don't have to be anonymous...
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Ah, the festive Parrot
Not much to report today. Spent a long time on the phone trying to get in touch with our Small Business Advisor. We need a reference, and our solicitor is unable to give one, as we hardly know him...obviously.
With the situation now being that we have a little more time on our hands before we open, I've got in touch with some of our distributors to make sure that our accounts have been set up. In most cases the answer was 'Yes', so I then phoned a few reps to re-acquaint myself with them. I'd hoped that our experience and contacts might give us a little bargaining power in getting better terms and discounts, and most publishers have been really supportive. I'm not naming names and it's so vulgar talking about money, but thank you all very much.
in the meantime, whilst I was very very busy working today, I found this on Youtube, and it kinda blew a chip in my little brain. I hope you like it too.
Ta Ta for now.
Monday, December 03, 2007
It's 22 days til Christmas now, and we don't have the keys yet, or for that matter, any positive sign that we'll get them in the next 2 weeks. We have to concede that it's very very unlikely that we'll open before Christmas. I am a ball of pent up anger at the moment, but will not vent my spleen at any particular person or company at the moment, as they are still 'working for us'.
Calm thoughts...calm thoughts...
We have to try and be positive about this, don't we....
* We have more time to get the stock right
* When we open, it'll be easier for us to cope with the inevitable teething problems
* We can make our own deadlines
* It'll be something to look forward to in boring old January
* I can have my first christmas off in 24 years
* We could have done with having a bumper first couple of weeks
* We are itching to sell books again
* I am a ball of pent up anger
* Everyone keeps asking us when we're going to open and we still can't tell them!
Having said this, things will take off tomorrow and we'll get the keys in a trice.Mmmmm
In the meantime we're making sure that we haven't forgotten anything in a business stylee type of thing. Fire extinguishers...check, License to play music...check, Oddbins Account...check.
Three more books we're going to stock. Although they're traditionally christmas books, they can be read any time of the year, and still keep the magic.
Box Of Delights by John Masefield
Written in the 1930's, this wonderful story is still as thrilling now as it was then. It centres around a boy called Kay Harker, who meets a mysterious Punch and Judy man called Cole Hawkins. Cole entrusts Kay with a magical box which gives the owner special powers. The trouble is that the evil Abner Brown and his gang are also after the box....
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
I loved Sophie's World and this is another great story. A young boy called Joachim finds an old wooden advent calendar in a bookstore, and when he gets it home and opens the first door on December 1st, discovers a note. This is the first clue to a cracking and magical (magical again!) tale.
A Christmas Carol by Boz
Spooky, exciting and less than £2 in the dover edition. It's a well deserved classic.
Read 'em to yourself or read 'em aloud.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
We're not going out of the house today, 'cos it's pouring down.
Anyway, as I said yesterday, here's some books we're going to be stocking in the shop.
The Dirty Bertie Joke Book.
A fine alternative to Horrid Henry, and something to keep you chortling over xmas.
a couple of examples;
Teacher: Bertie spell the word weather
Teacher: that's the worst spell of weather we've had for ages
Q:Name 2 days of the week that start with T
A:Today and Tomorrow
Something to read aloud now.
Augustus and His Smile
this is a gorgeous book, with beautiful illustrations, and has a great positive message (it wouldn't look so good on Kindle, would it?). An award winning picture flat.
The last one for now is a book I had when I was little, which has been recently reprinted by Usborne.
The Spy's Guidebook
This was one of my favourite's and has loads of activities and games for the young secret agent. It's got codebreaking tips, hints on how to track people and great disguises. My Mum takes great delight in reminding me of the day I made a fake beard out of a hanger and some wool, and went up to the shops wearing it assuming that no-one would recognise me. I was about 7, I think. I'm getting this for myself, as I can't find my original copy any more, and I want to try it again.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
It's about this time of year that I revert back to my childhood and get very excited about the prospect of watching 'Home Alone', 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'A Box of Delights', whilst cracking open walnuts and finishing off the Quality Streets.
This fits in quite nicely with our plans for next week (yes, we're still waiting for the contracts to be signed and the lease to be written up). We're putting together our children's opening stock order. The kid's section will occupy about a third of the shop and is probably the most important section for us.
We've talked at length about how we're going to lay the section out and have come up with a pretty good template. Having worked in chain bookshops all our lives we realised that we'd become institutionalised. What I mean by this is that when we started talking about the layout of the shop we were breaking it down by the categories that we were familiar with at Wottakars, like '5-8 fiction', 'activities' and 'reference'. We realised early on that we could, in-fact, have any categories that we wanted, so we went for a bit of 'Blue Sky Thinking', if you'll excuse the business speak. Now ,what we have is something which we think is a lot easier for our customers to navigate, and also a lot easier for us too.
Now the challenge is to fill those shelves. As I said i'm reverting back to my chldhood now, so throughout the week i'll be giving you a few of our choices and recommendations for the shop. We've had some fantastic suggestions already. We had a great response for Children's Book Week in October, as well as plenty more ideas for the shelves from all you wunnerful wunnerful people. We've been inundated with catalogues and freebies, which certainly increase the chances of representation.
Anyway, that's all for now apart from saying that the kindle is a pile of poo (see i've started reverting already), 'cos you can't share your books, you can't smell your books, you can't look at your books, you can't feel your books and you can't write notes in your books. Oh and it looks ugly, and in 5 years time laptops will be the same size as the kindle, and be able to do the same thing, so if anyone without a soul wants to read like this, the kindle will be outdated. Which (except maybe the driving test practical manual) will never happen to books.
bye bye, i'm off to the sweet shop.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Here's an insight into how i'm ordering the stock for the shop.
Remember, we're ordering from scratch, and I don't have anyone from Head Office to phone up and ask to send a spreadsheet of the top 500 on each category (although, I might give it a go a bit later today).
As you can see i'm using a mixture of order and chaos.
OK some things to spot.It's like a where's wally book,(or where's Waldo for our American visitors).
* A bunch of bananas for energy
* An Ipod on which I have 'The eye of the Tiger', 'Gold' by Spandau ballet and 'You're the Best Around' by Joe Esposito from the Karate Kid soundtrack on a constant loop.
* A never ending cup of coffee
* A selection of Spongebob Squarepants DVDs to keep me sane
* Some bestseller reports possibly from Waterstone's
* A Bertram's core stock list, which probably has too many Art titles in BTW.
* Anadin Extra, because i've done my back in doing some gardening (i'm not on gardening leave).
* Catalogues from many wonderful publishers.
* Gardners and Bertrams new title catalogues
* lists of 13 digit numbers
* a brilliant picture flat called 'That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown' (isbn 9781843624530), to break the monotony. (Thanks Darren)
* 3 pens, because I keep losing them under paper.
* if you look really closely you might see a single teardrop from when i'd just finished loading around 450 isbns onto a spreadsheet and then forgot to save it.
I also have a computer (duh!), and will today be tackling Mind Body and Spirit and self help, which we have allocated 21 shelves (672 books approx).
Right, starting with A. Angels, Alchemy, Astrology, Another coffee I think.....
I was going to put a comment along the lines of "This is the tidyest I've ever seen Simon's flat..." but then I looked at the state of my own front room, and realised that there would be a certain amount of kettle abusing pots involved.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
No, this isn't a waxwork model of the legendary poker player, Gary 'the hat' McCardshark, it is in fact Tim 'the bookshop' West.
Now, for no prize whatsoever, here's the big quiz question.
What do you think he's been doing today?
It has something to do with the shop, so it's not completely random.
You will notice that my left hand is poised for the quick draw of which I am legendary. Except for the fact that I am right-handed. Oh, and I haven't got a gun. The two facts that I'm right-handed, and I haven't got a gun... And I'm not a real cowboy. The three facts... I'll come in again)
Monday, November 26, 2007
In a previous life, as well as bookselling I used to sell badges. I did OK from it, so well in fact that it was through this that I got my accountant, Damian, to sort out my accounts. He's great, and if anyone out there wants an accountant he's superb.
Anyway, back to the badges. We've been mucking around with fonts and styles and i've stuck a couple on badges. They could be all the rage soon......
Let us know what you think, although this is probably far from the final outcome.
By the way, if anyone out there wants some badges done at competitive prices, you know where to come.....
less than 10 minutes walk from the site of our shop is Alexandra Park. Prety much every Sunday, Katie and I go up there for a walk and also to visit the Farmer's Market. Blowing cobwebs and all that...
During the summer we picked loads of nettles, and Katie made a wonderful soup and a nettle flan. We've picked blackberries in September and made some fantastic jam and muffins and cakes and crumbles(what a bunch of hippies). More recently we almost risked picking mushrooms, but decided to wait until we were sure of survival before trying this.
We're going to pick some holly and similar stuff to make chrimbo decorations.
Wood Green is lovely
Look, it's lovely.
Lovely lovely Wood Green...mmmm