Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Alternative Universe

I accidentally started watching 'Last of the Summer Wine' just now (please don't judge me). As the youth would say 'WTF?'. I suspect that i've been drugged, but it seems that the main protagonists of this programme (Compo Clegg and Foggy as memory serves), have been replaced by George off of George and Mildred, Kato off of the Pink Panther films and Russ Abbott.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Christmas Review

As John Lennon once penned

All day long we will be wombling in the snow,
We wish you a Wombling Merry Christmas.
All day long we will be laughing as we go.
We wish you a Wombling Merry Christmas.

hang on...let's try this one.

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The road is so long

yes, that's more like it.

and so, that was christmas was it? Well, as far as I can see it was.
And how was it on the 'frontline'?
well the answer isn't too bad at all.

I have to say that this being the first Big Green Christmas we didn't have anything to compare it to, so we can probably make a more accurate judgement in 12 months time. But it looks like we did OK. From Friday 12th December Christmas really started and kept going right up until 24th. In fact Christmas eve was our busiest day, which surprised me (I've been used to working in Central London, where Xmas eve tends to be mental mental in the morning and then quiet), although there wasn't much in it from the Saturday before Chrimbo.
We managed to keep the spending down, which is essential in our first year. Our request for customers to donte their old decorations went down really well and the shop looked very shiny. We printed 10,000 leaflets which (once again) our customers helped deliver and hand out. We had an offer on the leaflets giving the recipient 10% off a single transaction, and this was deifinitely worth it. It introduced loads of new customers to the shop and the amount we actually discounted over Christmas was negligable compared with the extra custom. It also means that there are hundreds of people who know where we are now, and will use the Big Green Bookshop in the future.
We borrowed Tim's son's CD player, and with the 'The Daily Mirror's Best Xmas CD in the World' from 1999 and The Super soaraway Sun's 'Now That's What I Call Apalling Xmas Cover Versions' from about the same time, our customers endured some truly festive tunes.
We managed to spend about the same amount on books during November and December than we have done in previous months (December's spend was a little less actually) which surprised me, and at first glance it seems that we don't have too much excess stock to send back to the publishers. Now that our stockholding is a little less than it was before Christmas it looks like we're going to be able to give 3 or 4 more bookcases to display without jeopardising the quality of our range.
In the end we didn't need to take anyone on over December as Tim and I didn't have days off instead! Except when Tim's varicose vein exploded, or I pulled a muscle in my back, or Tim got run over, or I got a virus. But it didn't keep us away for long and we staggered back for more punishment after each and every injury.

We closed for 4 whole days, and I think we both needed the break. Tim spent time in London with his family and Katie, Freya and I travelled to Hazelmere, Brighton, Portsmouth and Hazelmere again in an epic 3 day, 3 feast tour of our families.

Here is a photo of some of my lovely presents

Here are some photos of the centre of attention

So, now we're back at work and there's an absolute load to do. The decorations are down now, and we're going to rearrange the room we laughingly describe as the office. We have a couple of big orders to put together for account customers and we've got a programme of events to organise for the new year. We've got some interesting new things we want to try in 2009, which hopefully will appeal to our customers, and also we have big plans for our website (like actually sending the stuff that the very patient designer has asked us for), and there's lots more.
But that's for another time.

Blog and bookshop new year resolutions soon...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Things we've been too busy to tell you that have happened over the last month or so....

1. Tim's varicose vein exploded about 2 weeks ago.
2. Tim got hit by a car last week. In Hackney. By a taxi. He now has a limp.
3. Whilst putting up the decorations outside the shop up a ladder, Tim electrocuted himself. It was (for me anyway) rather worrying, watching him shudder flinch, shake and bend over double on a stepladder. Then when I realised he was alive, it was all rather amusing. If you've ever watched Harold Lloyd you'll understand.
4. We've set up a train track above the kid's section on top of some perspex, so that you can look up and watch Thomas the Tank Engine chugging around in circles.
5. I now wear a hairband, which Tim didn't mention for 4 days, which was 25 times worse than Tim ripping the piss out of me relentlessly the moment he saw it.
6. Freya now has 2 teeth.
7. The council have told us to take our sign at the end of the road down again.
8. Having no heating in the shop is fairly miserable, so we're pretty relieved that the weather is now a much more tolerable 12oC.
9. The banks should really stock up more on pound coins.
10. and fivers
11. Not paying publishers immediately at the moment seems to encourage more than the usual wrath. Sorry publishers, we don't mean it...
12. Rubber Ducks that change colour when put in the bath are a very popular add on sale in a bookshop.
13. Wrapping paper won't sell if you display it in a place in the shop that nobody can find.
14. Thinking you can put on lots of events in December is living in a fools paradise. Mince Pies and Mulled Wine on Monday though though.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This is How it is

As I hope you can understand(this being my 28th day in a row), i've been a little preoccupied selling books recently, and have somewhat neglected my duties as blogster. Apologies for this. Suffice to say it's been busy, bookwise. We've sold a few, we've ordered a get the idea.

I don't really know what to say at the moment. We're selling a hod load of stuff and we're getting lots of new customers. That's all we could ask for.
We can't compare it to anything, as we weren't open last xmas, so our like for like sales are excellent. 100% up on last year you could say.

Our suppliers are still performing very well. The nervousness of the book industry around Bertrams seems to us (so far) unfounded. We've had our deliveries every day, and availability hasn't been too bad at all. I wish they'd had more copies of Bad Science and Mr Gum, but then again, we should have ordered more in the first place, so we can hardly blame our suppliers.
SHOCK HORROR our Bertram delivery didn't arrive on Friday, which sent shudders through the whole of the book trade no doubt.... the more hysterical commentators may have phoned up the Bookseller straight away to bang on about how this was a sure sign that things were falling apart in Norwich. However, to provide a more reasoned argument, we had a Harpercollins box that didn't turn up last week. And there was a split delivery from Penguin last month. And a telephone order we placed with Macmillan on November 23rd didn't arrive until December the 12th. And perhaps more relevantly, a Gardners delivery which claimed to be 'out for delivery' this morning at 8.30 didn't turn up at all.
These things happen. The Bertrams delivery that didn't turn up yesterday arrived this morning with an apology from the delivery driver, and no doubt the Gardners box will arrive on Monday. It's Christmas for Santa's sake. Let's eat too many mince pies and just chill out...and buy lots more books.

I'm just fininshing the last of a lovely bottle of Beajoulais (not all by myself I hasten to add) and I have to say that despite all the high street credit crunching concerns, I'm blissfully happy. I work in an industry that I love, I co own my own gorgeous little bookshop, I have a rather funky (if a little battered) flat, and mostly mostly mostly, I have the most special girlfriend and baby daughter in the world. I might have to work for 32 days in a row, and I might not pay myself anything like what I was getting at Waterstones, but flippin 'eck i'm happy.
Look, see...and hairy, slightly feral and a little unsettling. But happy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


It's quite busy.

More interesting blogs when i get a chance.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pop Pickers...

Charts eh? We love 'em.

What's going to be the Xmas Number 1 (not the Cheeky Girls, that's for sure)?
What's the Nations Favourite Sitcom
Who's your least favourite Top Gear Presenter?

and of course

What are the bestselling books this Xmas?

So far we have

Tales of Beedle the Bard (less than half price)
Dear Fatty. (58% off at Amazon!)
Jamie's Ministry of Food (free with every tin of Sainsbury's baked beans)

and so on...

It'd be interesting to know what would really be the bestselling books if publishers and supermarkets etc didn't treat our lovely books like poo poo (if you'll pardon the expression). I completely understand that this is a competitive market, and blah de blah, and this is purely speculation. But here's my guess at what would probably be the top 10 paperback and hardback books if they were sold at full price.

1. Dreams From My Father - Barack somebody or other.
2. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
3. The Audacity of Hope by somebody Obama
4. Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
5. The Suspicions of Mr Wicher by Kate Summerscale
6. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
7. Little History of the World by Gombrich
8. Reluctant Fundamentalist
9. Harry Hill's Whopping Big Joke Book
10. The Book Thief by someone beginning with Z

1. Beedle the Bard (no brainer- we sold out on the first day. Ooops)
2. Guinness Book of Records
3. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (it won the booker prize you know)
4. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (he's a cleverclogs and he wrote that other popular book)
5. Anthaem by Neal Stephenson (I don't care how much it costs I lvoe it)
6. The Doctor Who Annual. (Inevitably)
7. Otolenghi Cookbook (wot, no Nigella?)
8. QI Advanced Banter. Probably
9. That Mighty Boosh book I reckon
10. Terry Pratchett thing called Nation

This in no way matches our bestsellers (when I say 'in no way', I'm clearly exaggerating), we have lots more oldies and kid's stuff in our list. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs for example, and Brian Wildsmith's Favourite Fables. But I suspect these wouldn't make it in there.

Do you agree or think i'm talking a big pile of dung. Who knows...

Monday, December 08, 2008

High Flyer

I spent last Friday flyering/leafleting a particlar area near the shop.
It's known as 'The Ladder' and it's rather a large area.

View Larger Map
I started at 9.30am and I walked for 8 hours, dropping off about 1,800 leaflets through about 1,800 doors. The things you do eh?
If you've ever done anything like this you'll have some idea of what to expect. My fingers were almost taken off by 2 dogs(terriers probably) who threw themselves at the door the moment I pushed the letter flap. And I was also confronted by the dilemma of 'Is what i'm about to put through your letterbox junk mail or not?'

I personally don't think it's junk, however the dictionary definition is;

junk mail
Third-class mail, such as advertisements, mailed indiscriminately in large quantities.

junk mail
unwanted letters in the post, advertising things.

a sheet of paper with an advertisement on it, given to you in the street or pushed through your door

so clearly it is. And as an upstanding citizen I abided by the rules. I was, however intrigued by the myriad of signs prohibiting me from pushing my little leaflet through the door.

The majority of these made the front doors look very ugly.

My favourites were theseEngraved letterboxes. This is a lot of effort, and congratulations to the owners of the 17 houses on the ladder who invested in these.

I must tell you more about 'the ladder', and none of this is true.
The shop is in a borough of London called Haringey. Within this borough is a small area called Harringay and this is where the ladder is(actually this is true). Now Harringay was renamed in the late 90's by 12 of the residents who were in a secret society. They wanted to pass on information on the internet to each other which no-one else would have access to, so they persuaded the council to change the name of this particular area, so they could do this. They plan on becoming a principality and have introduced the 'Harringay Pound', a currency which is only accepted in the shops in the area. We aren't in Harringay, but as a kind of go-between, we are one of the few shops that accept this money, and we re-use it in one of the many boutiques that adorns Harringay's glorious streets.
As I said, none of this is true, and if you want to know what's really going on in Harringay, then may I suggest you join the lovely forum/info point/sounding board Harringayonline. It's very good indeed, and quite informative aswell. Most of the time.
I have a real soft spot for the ladder and it's a cracking place to live. There were (far too) many houses that I jealously looked at and wished I was living there as my frozen fingers pushed a Big Green Bookshop flyer through the front door. All except this one.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's busy in and around the bookshop at the moment. And despite having nothing to compare it to, sales seem to be rather good. We've had a succession of 4 figure days, although one or two of these have been helped by big cheques arriving from schools from account orders. It all counts though, and we may be able to afford some heating soon.

Our kids reading group have chosen one of my favourite festive books for December. It's only The Box Of Delights I so want them to enjoy the book. It'll be interesting to see if the discerning readers of today find that the magic that I found in the book is still there.

We had the lovely lively legend Sam Enthoven in for Big Green Wednesday today. Despite a rotten cold ( an occupational hazard when you work in close proximity with kids), Sam was super fun and kept everyone entertained with passages from his books. He also answered swathes of questions without sneezing on anyone on the front row. Thanks Sam.

I've torn a muscle in my back today, which hurts, but the show must go on. I'm in the middle of a 32 day stretch at work at the moment, so we can't let incapacity put us off can we?

I've had quite a number of phone calls recently from different websites/magazines etc asking whether the Woolworths situation has affected the supply of books from our distributors. For those who don't know, Woolworths placed its stores in administration recently. Although Bertram books (one of our big distributors) was part of the Woolworths gang, it operated outside the group, so it's business as usual.
Well, much to the frustration of the people who phoned, there really hasn't been any difference with the book supply from Bertrams, who have been as good as ever with deliveries etc.
I do wish people would show as much interest in things when they were going well, rather than look for negative stories all the time. I'm pretty sick of people going on about the credit crunch and the like. I seem to remember when Northern Rock were having all that fun last year, that if the press hadn't made such a massive deal of it, then the whole 'run on the bank' thing might not have happened.

Let's all try and look for positives shall we. It's much nicer that way. 'shut up, you bloody hippie'

My friend Phil (he's the one opening the champagne in the video) is one half of a band called Honeygene. They've only gone and done a really catchy xmas song, with a cheesy video to go with it.It's rather jolly isn't it?