Want to know about the future trends in bookselling? ‘The Bookseller’ is where the people in the know will look. Their website proudly declares them ‘at the heart of publishing since 1858’. Their regular conferences for editors, publishers, authors and booksellers are hugely influential. With this in mind, it was quite the honour that, just a few weeks short of our 10th anniversary, Booka was asked to speak at the 2019 Bookseller’s Children’s Conference 2019 which took place in London on the 23rd of September.

In a packed programme of events, which included a Keynote Speech by Cressida Cowell, as well as talks from librarians, publishers, authors and other significant players in the bookselling industry, our very own Carrie Morris, took to the stage. In a presentation entitled ‘How does the High Street Contribute to Children’s Entertainment?’ Carrie shared some of Booka’s successes over the last ten years and our exciting plans for the future.

This week’s blog features the highlights of Carrie’s speech, given to some of the most influential players in the industry.

“I’ve been asked to talk to you from the heart of Indie Bookselling about what the independent sector and Booka, in particular, contribute to Children’s Entertainment. From all the networking I have done this year, one clear message resonated with me as a bookseller.

“We need to understand that our high streets are local communities, where people come to spend time together. This means our space is just as important as our books.

“Bookshops are one of the most resiliant businessess in retail. In 2018, more bookshops opened than closed. Among bookshops, the Indie sector is a strong force that has a huge impact on the sales of books and helps new authors to break into the industry.

“Bookshops can no longer survive by filling our windows with books, opening our doors and waiting for it all to happen. Books will not sell themselves. We have to bring the bookshop to life. We are the creatives to rival the digital.

“The last ten years have been tough for all booksellers. Recession, deep discount retailing, the threat of eBooks, online shopping, and of course the instability over the last couple of years of the uncertain political climate. Despite this Booka has not just survived but thrived – like many other indies up and down the country.

“Our size allows us to be nimble and proactive and we buck the trend through our uniqueness and our collaborative strength. Bringing books to life is in our lifeblood. It is what we do.

“To succeed in today’s harsh retail environment, we have to create destinations and take the customer on a journey by entertaining and engaging them. We have to tell our story, our brand story and as the purveyors of books, we are better placed than most to do this. And finally, we have to ‘Create a Buzz about Books’. At Booka, we do all of this by being more than just a bookshop.

“Windows! We use the ‘theatre of books’ to entice people through our doors. This is where the adventure begins, we offer an experience that can’t be bought or replicated online. This is what’s known as the ‘third space’ (not home or work), where activities take place, a safe place, harnessing a community of readers at all ages.

“Our Sunday Crafternoons are an opportunity for this! We host a regular programme of children’s events during the School holidays. Our Holiday Bookclub entertains children while parents work or get jobs done. On top of that, we organise a programme of seasonally themed events that allow us to showcase a wider horizon of books and develop and reach new audiences. Our pop-up workshops are in tune with current concerns – reduce, reuse, recycle, during our Eco Pop-up workshop. We have addressed the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths during our STEM Pop-up workshop.

“Our author events create ‘a buzz about the book’. We work with national campaigns so we can engage with local schools and host large events outside the shop. World Book Day is a great opportunity to get children over the threshold and into the bookshop – you can see the impact on the whole community and it always results in new visitors who might not have been to a bookshop before.

“We bring the best-loved children’s authors to Oswestry, making book-lovers dreams come true. We use ‘Book Theatre’ to explode the book and interact with our readers by providing a multi-sensory experience that creates special memories. With some creative thinking, we can take the Bookshop outside the four walls of the shop and into our local community.

“That’s a whistle-stop tour of just some of the things we have introduced over the last ten years. What comes next for us?

“If the bookshop is a theatre of books, our next step for Booka is to create a real ‘Theatre’ in the bookshop. Our children’s section is currently being revamped into a ‘Theatre of Books’, taking the concept to the next level. After the grand opening, we will be able to offer so much more to our young readers, including live and interactive storytelling sessions, a box office promoting our kids events, a ‘Rogues Gallery of Books’ to showcase and put in the spotlight our Book of the Month as well as other books we want to shout about!

“All of the things I’ve talked about and the examples I’ve shown you are from my Bookshop, Booka but they are indicative of the Indie Bookselling Industry as a whole and how it operates. It certainly helped shape our success over the last ten years and have become an essential part of our philosophy when considering the vital role we can play in entertaining children on our High Street and beyond.

“So to all the publishers: let’s continue to strengthen the relationships and keep entertainment at the heart of bookselling.

“To all the authors: don’t be afraid of working with smaller bookshops because collectively we have a big voice. Choose the road less travelled if you want your book to reach wider audiences of children.

“Lastly to all the booksellers: keep on being the creatives to rival the digital and keep ‘Book Theatre’ at the heart of what you do. Be instinctive, be distinctive and stand out from the crowd. Be bold, be ambitious, be brave. Keep striving to be the best bookshop you can be. We are proud to say: ‘THIS IS WHO WE ARE AND THIS IS WHAT WE DO’.

Has Carrie inspired you with her stirring words? Want to join us next weekend as we celebrate ten awesome years of independent bookselling at Booka? The 5th and 6th of October will Booka host our Big Bookshop Party where the store will be packed with quizzes, games, competitions for our 10th Birthday celebration, with a special guest appearance of children’s favourite Peppa Pig on Saturday at 11am. With 10% off all purchases, you could even make a start on the Christmas shopping! Sunday will be a more relaxed day where you can enjoy live jazz from 1pm. Find out all the details in our latest newsletter here.

Look out for some very special blogs coming up in the next week as we celebrate ten wonderful years of bookselling at Booka.