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Who’s Ready For Christmas?

Who’s Ready For Christmas?

Those who have followed my journey ‘from bestseller to bookseller’ over the last few weeks will know that it has been a steep learning curve for me down at The Book Room. It was, after all, less than eight weeks ago that I had the idea to open an independent bookshop and yet here I am, closing up on my fourth weekend trading.

Each week has brought a new lesson, last week was that damned website which nearly cost me my sanity, but my brilliant friend Kerri came to the rescue on Thursday night and sat with me until after all our kids had gone to bed making the homepage look beautiful. And it does, but I can’t show it to you yet because, guess what, if you do anything to the front end of the website, you have to change something at the back end again, and so I need my ever-patient brother-in-law to fix a few things for me but, as I say every week, maybe this week will be the week I press publish (now that will be an exciting post!)

Remember waaaay back three weeks ago when my biggest dilemma was what to restock and replenish and what to run down? That took some working out, particularly as I don’t have the fancy ordering systems that other bookshops have, it didn’t seem worth it for a pop-up and so I have my trusty list, and also my eyeballs, and they work the old-fashioned way by telling my brain what looks like it has sold out on the shop shelves and therefore might need reordering. It’s a fail-safe system really.

But my question this week is, can even my eyeballs keep up with Christmas demand? Or at least that’s the first part of my question, and the second part of my question is, will there be a Christmas demand?

I have noticed through another highly technical system of mine – the calculator – that sales have been steadily increasing week on week, particularly, and surprisingly to me on week days, rather than weekends. I’m actually still wondering whether to open at all on Sundays, though I’m also running out of Sundays to make my mind up. But there is the old work/life balance to consider and only so many friends I can palm my child off to (thank you to all who have helped).

So my dilemma this week is just how mad to I go on ordering in these last few weeks before Christmas? If you imagine that all the bookshops in the country will be placing two, three, four times the amount of orders that they normally do in the next few weeks, deliveries are sure to be affected, and so wouldn’t it be sensible to just double up on orders at the beginning of December and sleep soundly knowing the stock is there in the shop?

But then, worse case scenario and I find myself like some character from A Christmas Carol (before Scrooge has his moment of enlightenment) with no home for my books after December 24th, do I want to be lugging all my unsold stock home through the snow on the back of a sleigh pulled not by reindeers as they’ll be busy with Santa, but more likely my ten-year-old daughter?

There is a lot to think about.

In my head I’m that poor carol singer rabbit guy that Scrooge turns away on Christmas Eve in Muppets’ Christmas Carol

I guess, like a lot of this journey there is only one way to find out, and that is just to make a sensible prediction and see if I’m right. There is always the fallback which is the wholesaler, but as I’ve mentioned before in other posts, the profit margin is much lower with the wholesaler and stock is not full sale or return, so the risk is higher.

Another dilemma I have is my Christmas book hampers, I had enough pre-orders last week to give me the confidence to invest in a bulk delivery of gorgeous gold boxes and 5kg of shredded tissue paper (which, if all else fails, my puppy will absolutely love as a gift for Christmas and I would not see her until the new year). I’m trying to gee everyone along to get their pre-orders in to ensure I can get the stock in time, but I haven’t actually given a deadline for orders because, again, I am unsure what quantities I will be dealing with.

I think we can agree that December will be a period of the great unknown for me, but we can rest assured that I will emerge from my first Christmas period as a bookseller with much more knowledge than I have as I type this. And isn’t that what this experiment is all about? It is a test after all: Can this business sustain a permanent home with all the overheads that go with it? Can I manage to juggle my writing career, my parenting to one child, one dog, two cats with running a bookshop? Does my local neighbourhood and my town want to support an independent bookshop long term?

All this is yet to be decided, and when it isn’t extremely tiring, all this unknown is also great fun. I know I’m lucky to be able to learn on the job, so to speak, to test my idea, and as I’ve said before, it is your enthusiasm that keeps me going and keeps me brave enough to try.

So, as we enter December this week, let’s see what the month holds!

Remember where you can find me, inside The Bloom Foundry, 55 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TP, until Christmas Eve. You can also email me any orders, and let’s see if by the end of the week you can click through to a fully functioning website because no bookshop can survive without one these days, I’ll tell you more about that once it’s actually up and running.

Thank you, as always for sharing my journey.

More soon,


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