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The Bookshops are Back!

Charlotte Walker

By Charlotte Walker on 22nd June 2020

As non-essential shops started to re-open, bookshop owners, booksellers and shoppers are having to adapt to a new way of working. The LoveReading team were excited for bookshops to start opening again, allowing a step towards a semblance of normality. Our Managing Director, Deborah, headed to her local Independent Bookshop on On Tuesday 16th and stocked up on some brilliant new books for the whole family. This week, the 20th - 27th June is also Independent Bookshop Week, what better way to celebrate by picking up your next book from a local bookshop? We’ve been using our social media with our ‘#IndieBookshop of the Day’ posts to spread awareness of the plethora of bookshops across the UK throughout the lockdown period. We're working to help people support local business while picking up some highly-anticipated new books - a hobby that's almost as fun as reading!

As our team work remotely across the UK, we each have a different local bookshop that we are able to share the book love with. The closest independent bookshop to me is Read. in Holmfirth. I had the opportunity to pop by on Friday and had a quick catch-up with one of the owners, Louise. Read. was our bookshop of the month feature in May and it was exciting to find out how the opening week had gone for them. The picture below was taken from the Bookshop feature, as it was perfect weather for staying indoors and reading on Friday!

Owners Louise and James have been very busy during lockdown working every hour possible, juggling homeschooling with managing orders and taking their Readmobile on the road for local deliveries. Spreadsheets were created in order to keep track of everything, “it was too much to keep in your head”. Getting the shop ready for reopening was another mammoth task after 12 weeks, with the usual tasks of making sure the shelves were stacked, installing screens, 2m floor markers and sanitising stations, as well as rearranging and removing the furniture to allow as much space as possible while still offering their best selection of books. 

What came across strongly to me was the pride in what the Read. team had built over the years, working to be more than a shop with book clubs, partnerships with industry awards and events which helped to create a space that was somewhere to visit as well as shop. Before lockdown, visitors would be encouraged to sit in a comfy seat and read, whereas now that has been removed due the social distancing measures. As with a lot of independent bookshops that have built up a community, there is a sense of limbo as they wait for the heart return alongside the bare bones of the bookshop. 

In the opening few days, there have been new faces visiting the shop as well as existing customers, which is a bonus for any bookseller. During the lockdown, orders were made by customers based locally and further afield as many of us support local independent shops. Louise was positive about the new customers and that more people had heard about the shop and decided to visit. 

A lot more has and will change as a result of coronavirus. Read. has a relatively small footprint and aims to sell a wide variety of books. They would tend to stock one copy of many different books as opposed to having lots of copies of a smaller selection available. However, Louise said that the lockdown has shown her that their knowledge of their customers and reading habits is fairly accurate, giving them a confidence boost and slightly altering how the shop will be stocked in the future. 

Read.’s main room is lined with bookshelves, with a table in the window piled with a collection of paperbacks, wherever possible books are turned to face the visitor so you can see what’s on offer at a glance. They’ve also optimised shelves and the area around the till with integrated bookshelves and a selection of children’s books for when the children’s room is closed. The main room also features a display with greetings cards and while I was there a local artist dropped by with a new selection, the consensus being that people are wanting to visit as few places as possible while out shopping, so being able to pick up a card while collecting the latest book in your favourite series is a bonus. There were also plans made for their next bookmark, which I am incredibly excited about!

With risk assessments, PPE and social distancing restrictions in place, the shock of the changes made the first day of trading quite tough for Louise, who said that there were a few tears shed, although each day since has become more comfortable and feels more like normal. As everyone gets used to the changes in how we live and how we shop, there is some initial trepidation as more stores open. However, I also think that Louise and James are more confident after working through the lockdown and there are hope and reassurance to be found in making plans and adjusting working models for the future. As for me, it was brilliant to be in a bookshop again and finding out more about a brilliant independent bookshop that I am excited to return to. 

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