365 days + 8

With a lack of blogging for the last few weeks (month?), one of two things must have happened in the shop. Either: a) things have gone completely pear shaped. Nicki and I are losing interest, and the difficulties of running a bookshop in this day and age mean we were crazy to even think we could get it to work, etc. or b) all the hard work we've put in on the events, activities, book selection, etc. together with an exponential word-of-mouth effect and a few lucky calls have meant things have gone a bit bonkers in the shop in the last month. Happily, I'm pleased to report, it's the latter. I'm not saying we're rolling in cash or anything. Far from it. But the shop is definitely *viable* and a success on its own terms. And that's both a great relief, but also tremendously rewarding for Nicki and me. (We are, to be frank, a bit knackered, for reasons you'll discover below. We're looking forward to a holiday at the beginning of August, when we'll be closing the shop for a week). I believe there are lots of things that have happened in the shop over the past few months that have contributed, and - in keeping with things we've posted historically on the blog - I wanted to share a few of them with you. A couple of months ago we launched our loyalty card - slightly quirky, a bit home brew, like most things we have done with this shop. And that has made a tremendous amount of difference. If there are any independents out there who *don't* run a loyalty card, seriously, set one up. Yes, it's a lot of effort. Yes, getting one 'off-the-shelf' from one of the (unnamed) wholesalers seems easier. Yes, you do have to apply quite a bit of commonsense at the till (does £9.50 count as £10 towards a stamp? Can my mother use my card this time, etc. - to which we say yes, BTW), and you have to deal with all kinds of 'special circumstances' (like not giving stamps for book tokens) but - it really does help you to reward your best customers, and it's a lot of fun for everyone when someone completes their card. (Thanks to Anu's brilliant innovation, we have a big gold star stamp that gets brought out especially. Hee hee) Plus we've started giving stamps for kids reviewing books - and that's also been great fun. The Saturday before last we celebrated one year in Abingdon - and despite awful weather (what a difference from last year when I was in shorts for about 3 months) lots of people turned up to sip champagne and celebrate with us. Thanks to everyone who popped in, it was a bit manic (!) but we really appreciated it. This weekend (July 14/15) we will be the official bookseller at the UK's first Children's Food Festival at Abingdon Airfield. Since we first were chosen, the event has ballooned from a modest celebration of children's cooking, to an enormous event with 10 celebrity chefs, and scores of marquees, displays, farm-to-fork activities and cookery demonstrations. Having to get hold of the cookbooks has been a nerve-wracking affair (not to mention getting hold of a marquee at a time of a national shortage), and liaising with various PAs and PR companies to get the signings set up has been...an experience...but we're focusing on having fun, there are some frankly amazing things taking place on the day (Bicycle-powered smoothie makers anyone?) so fingers crossed the jet stream moves north this week and we get some decent weather. If you are coming to the festival - pop over to our tent and say hi. Collapsing in a big heap next week will be tempting, but we'll be getting up all over again for the big launch of Harry Potter. Inspired by Crockatt & Powell's donation antics, we're raising money for the Silver Star Team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Yay. There's still some places left for the midnight event. And we've got muggle quidditch. No really. We worked out how to do it, and there will be no health and safety issues, no books will get hurt, and there will be some decent prizes to boot...


  1. Well done Mark and Nicki and the team for creating such a fantastic bookshop for us lucky burghers of Abingdon. Long may you reign! etc etc

  2. Kit Berry4:34 pm

    You sound great - I shall definitely come up and visit you from Reading one day soon (after your hols and when you've recovered from cooking and quidditch!) You remind me of Mr B's Emporium in Bath - same kind of independent ethos. Great - and what we need as antithesis to the massive chains. And especially Tesco. Good luck with your special event this weekend - I'll be doing a book signing event myself in a lovely independent bookshop in Dorset, otherwise I would have come. Bright blessings, Kit Berry