Monday, April 24, 2006
Since we started this blog we have learned about two independent bookshops which have closed in April - this is obviously pretty distressing, as both seemed to be set up with a combination of experience, passion and vision. The sudden closure of love2read (www.love2read.co.uk) on April 1st was quite a shock - we had them on our list as a shop to watch for some of their inspirational and innovative marketing. But the closure of Secession Books in Bath just a few days ago is perhaps even more of a shock. There is a fitting eulogy to its closure by dovegreyreader here (and we found out this news through her excellent blog) - but when it opened less than 2 years ago, there was real expectation (in the Bookseller and further afield) about bucking the trend in independent book retailing. Their slogan was "because a book is not a tin of beans", a brave rallying cry against the wafer thin margins of modern book retailing. These two bits of news - delivered in April - have made sobering reading for Nicki and I. Aside from serving as a momento mori for the undertaking (not a great choice of word in the circumstances) we are embarked upon, it's also made us look very closely at our business model and strategy. On the Secession website (which may disappear any day now) it states "...independent bookshops are critical to maintaining diversity in the marketplace of ideas" and that the founders "encourage people to support their community by patronizing a local shop". These are two ideas we obviously get behind 100% - but fear it may not be enough to survive (and hopefully thrive) in a South Oxfordshire market town street in the 21st century. As worthy as these two goals are, a third one needs to be added - adding superior value by constantly innovating. That may sound like managerial psycho-babble (is that a word?), but it just means constantly striving to create and maintain a great little shop. And I don't think innovations needs to involve massive investment in new technology - remembering people's names and what books they like to read whilst handing them a cup of coffee. Now even Tesco's and Amazon would have difficulty with that one. At least - we hope they do!