I was interested to read in The Read that the ‘books boom’ didn’t extend to all bookshops – so we started discussing what made this our most profitable Christmas in the history of the shop.
We sold heaps of quality fiction – hundreds of The Luminaries and The Goldfinch, both of which we pre-gift-wrapped in huge piles so people could grab the wrapping they preferred – but also lots of books that we had read and could personally recommend. We were so busy we often needed all staff behind the counter, so it was sometimes hard to get out onto the crowded shop floor to do some hand-selling – but when we did we sold lots of Americanah (Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie), The Last Days of the National Costume (Anne Kennedy), May We Be Forgiven (A M Homes), The Hired Man (Aminatta Forna), Life After Life (Kate Atkinson), The Embassy of Cambodia (Zadie Smith), The Roundhouse (Louise Erdrich), The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert), and Blood & Beauty (Sarah Dunant)
Non-fiction was also great for us this year – Peter McLeavey and Marti Friedlander, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett), Bonkers (Jennifer Saunders), Eat (Nigel Slater), Empress Dowager (Jung Chang), The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown), Fifty Shades of Feminism (Ed. Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach)
Because we decided to take the excellent Summer Reading Catalogue produced by Booksellers NZ we were forced to order more broadly than usual – very good for me! A few books in it were not entirely relevant to our shop but we mailed it out to our 4000 database accompanied by just a single glossy sheet of our own that included ‘our’ books – eg: Fifty Shades of Feminism. We still have a little table on the pavement outside the shop with a pile of the catalogue and a sign saying ‘Please help yourself’. We restock it daily.
I ordered boldly in November (knowing I could pay for stock in December but that cashflow could be frighteningly light in January!). Having large quantities of key titles prominently displayed helped sales.
Winning Penguin NZ Bookseller of the Year definitely helped our profile, along with the Honourable Mention (with Time Out; Unity was deservedly the winner) in Metro Magazine’s Best of Auckland 2013.
Retail was up generally, people seemed more aware of buying locally, and they wanted real books, beautifully wrapped, as gifts. We were also aware of how strongly our customers have come to trust our judgement. We are four experienced women – Tanya Gribben, Mary-Liz Corbett, Patricia Kay and myself, who all read avidly, have been involved in literary festivals and events for years and who are skilled at talking about books with people.
Written by Carole Beu
Owner of The Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby, Auckland
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