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Getting Into The Customers’ Heads

Getting Into The Customers’ Heads

I had never planned to open The Book Room on a Sunday. It is, after all, the one day of the week where I can see my daughter, catch up on washing/cleaning and walking the dog. Oh and rest, I forgot that bit!

I am closed on Mondays but that’s the day that I do my re-ordering for the week ahead with publishers, so that’s a working day, and so, at the moment I am working seven days a week. But, this is a test to see whether my pop-up could become a permanent shop, so that’s ok, it’s short term and all quite fascinating – though my daughter might not agree!

But I remember a customer coming in on my very first Saturday and asking me whether I would be open on Sundays as she worked full time and so she would definitely use a book shop on a Sunday.

Reader, I have not seen her since.

I sit inside the shop and watch as people stop to have a good look in the window, which I think looks colourful and enticing and is packed with books. I hear them through the open door say: ‘Ooh, a bookshop!’ or: ‘Oh, they’re selling books here now.’ But then they walk on by.

I think my window looks inviting, right? But I must get my vinyl stickers up

I wonder how many times people need to walk past an open shop that interests them before they come inside? Perhaps ten times? Their brain must register that it’s there on one level, but perhaps it could be weeks later when they’re at home and need a book that you think: ‘oh yeah, there’s a bookshop at the end of my road!’

I have visions – nightmares – of people having this realisation after December 24th when my pop-up closes in this particular location and coming down to find all my books removed from the window and saying to themselves: ‘That’s a shame, I’ve been meaning to go in there,’ or: ‘I would have liked a bookshop at the end of my road.’

I say this as someone who has done the same, time and time again. I have seen little independent shops open and thought: ‘I must go in there’. And then a year later, when they’ve literally closed up shop thought: ‘oh, that’s a shame, I would have used that.’

So why didn’t I?

I wonder perhaps if people passing don’t realise my little pop-up is only here for a limited time. I have vinyl to put in the windows saying ‘pop-up bookshop’ but I’m a bit cack-handed at these kinds of things so I haven’t got them up yet, and also it means dismantling my window display and putting it all back together again. But maybe that might be the difference, maybe that might persuade those people who pass and say: ‘Books! How nice!’ to come inside.

I’ll try it next week and let you know if it made a difference.

What has been wonderful are the number of repeat customers, those who have come in alone to buy (or better still, order!) a book, and then returned with their kids the next day to allow them to pick one. And then – and this really is the best bit – their kids have raced through the book and they’ve come back the following day to get them the next in the series. I don’t know about you but if my ten year old ever asks for a book I am so delighted that she’s not on her device that I never say no.

This, that I have just described, is the sowing of the seeds of a community bookshop, one that the whole family will use, and this makes me so happy.

Consistency in retail is vital, consistency in opening hours, in opening days. Show up when you say you’ll be there, keep showing up even if the customers don’t, and eventually, they’ll come.

Branding is another thing that is vital, and it’s a little tricky in a temporary home to get across your personality or your vibe when you cannot decorate or display things the way you might wish to. But it will come. I am confident.

But patience is the thing that is most necessary, you have to give it time. And so, my housework will wait, my dog is happy sleeping in her crate, my kid is with her friends.

Time. Consistency. Patience. I’m building something good here – I can feel it.

Plus, just as I finished writing this, a man who just happened to be walking by came in and said: ‘You have a Kate Bush book in your window, can I buy it?’

So there you go, my window is doing its job. Good window.

More soon…


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