Steve Orchard is the shop manager of the new Blackwell’s in Holborn which opened its doors on 19th December. Having seen the interesting range of books, sampled the cafe and witnessed the efficiency, of the all important wi-Fi, we were delighted to be invited in to find out more.
1. Firstly a bit about you, how did you get into bookselling?
Like many other booksellers, this was something I fell into straight out of University. My first job was at the Belsize bookshop, latterly bought by James Daunt. In 1995, I took a position at Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road and worked my way up to become Manager. When Blackwell’s opened in Holborn, I was excited to be given the opportunity to go back to managing a small store, which reminded me of my earlier days of being a bookseller in North London, you can definitely control things better in a smaller store.
2. How is the new store ? What type of people are coming in?
This area is surrounded by office workers and lots of legal professionals, being so close to the courts. Our in-store Benugo cafe has been enticing people in with offers of cake and coffee, and we have had a good number of visitors from our previous premises on Charing Cross Road. Business is made up a combination of cash sales, credit sales and events. We do have some credit accounts in place already with local training colleges, though there are many more in the area we could be working with. Robyn is our events manager and is planning a series of instore events including Sci-Fi & poetry readings , plus we are hoping that this interview on BookMachine will remind local publishers that they can host book launches here too.
We also have a really good relationship with our Twitter followers from Charing Cross Road, and that is helping us to maintain customer communication. Gary runs our Twitter account @blackwellshh and a regular quiz called ‘Say What You See’, using a series of images to encourage followers to guess the book he has picked. It’s great fun and has generated a buzz both online and offline.
Jewish Book Week will be at the end of February, this has traditionally been a great week for us, as for the past 3-4 years (in the previous store) we would order in all the books and promote them in conjunction with the event, so we are optimistic this will draw in new customers too.
3. Which titles are you selling most of?
History books are doing well, as is the Self and Society section, with classic best sellers such as ‘Watching the English’ by Kate Fox. We stock plenty of intelligent non-fiction titles, to appeal to those who want a serious bookstore to browse in, as opposed to a novelty, mainstream bookshop. Most importantly we have been asking our customers what they want to read, and this is something we will continue to do. In fact, we are going to use this opportunity to ask you, BookMachine readers, to tell us what you would want to read in-store. If you fill in your answer below you will get a voucher email for a free cup of coffee in store!
4. How are you integrating non-book products into the store?
Non-book products are really important because they draw people in, and also have bigger margins. Our plan is to keep the non-book ranges we stock moving along quickly, so customers know they can find something different. It’s also important to break away from the standard gifts from the same distributors of all the other book stores. What is the point if you can buy the same gift in the gift store down the road? This is something Sarah Tilley, our Sales Manager, will be focusing on.
5. Anything else London publishers need to know?
Our plan is to have a good selection of local promotions, and a strong selection of books selected by staff. Within our team we have a sci-fi fan, an expert history buyer and a crime reader. This means we can provide a well curated bookshop with a depth of choice, not just the stuff that flies off the shelves.
And of course we are always open to hosting your book launches!
Downstairs we’ll be displaying a range of academic, business and legal titles and as we mentioned before, are always open to hearing about what our customers would like to see in-store.
After a tour of the books shelves, and more great coffee and a muffin, we can safely say that the new Blackwell’s has all the ingredients of a place where readers will browse, relax and meet. Make sure you say hi to Gary on Twitter @blackwellsHH and follow the development of this exciting new store.