Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Where To Begin ?


Since the redundancy was agreed, I've woken up every morning with a sense of excitement and fear in varying degrees. I've enjoyed working in Waterstone's Bookshop since 1990, they've been a pretty fair employer all in all. Like most jobs, I've been through times when it hardly seemed worth getting up in the morning, but it has given me the chance to do what I love the most, working with the public. Not only that, but I got to be surrounded by wonderful books, and work with some of the nicest people I could ever hope to work with.

On August 3rd 2007, all that changed. Our Area Manager came into the store to let the staff know that the shop we worked in, and loved, was closing in 9 days time, and was being taken over by a clothes retailler. It was a bit of a shock, to say the least.

I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say, everyone who wanted to was relocated to other branches, and those who didn't were given redundancy. I was one of the ones who was given redundancy. I just couldn't see myself in another branch. I'd moved to Wood Green in January, and I fell in love with it. It wasn't the most efficient shop. In fact, if i'm honest, sometimes it bordered on chaos, but the shop worked. We gelled as a team, and from the beginning of the year we'd started to beat our targets. This odd little shop was starting to get noticed. Other managers in the region were getting a bit more interested in what was going on up in North London...what it was that Waterstone's in Wood Green was doing that had them doing so well.

The answer was pretty simple. We dedicated every commercial decision we made to our customers, we looked at the shop from their point of view, and tailored the shop (as much as we were allowed to) to them. There it is, there's the secret. Now go back to your retail outlets prepare for profit. Oh, and the other thing we did was have fun. A job's not work if it's fun, and i'm not a fan of work.

So here we are, me and Tim were astonished by the seemingly short sighted decision to close the shop. And so were a few others.

And we've decided to do something about it. We're going to open our own bookshop in Wood Green.
And this is going to be our story. We have the passion, the determination, and we also have a little bit of business acumen. With a little help, it might just work. It'll make for compelling reading whatever happens.
We would love any advice, words of encouragement or money that you can spare, and we'll do our best to be as honest in this blog as possible.
I apologise for this rather serious, and factual introduction. Things are bound to get more interesting.......


Peter Garner said...

Morning chaps! I came to this site lured by the leader of "Two blokes, One bookshop, No idea". What a great idea and I'll be watching with interest as the story unfolds. I'm really hoping you succeed.

Tim, you mentioned "45yrs old and this is my first blog" - don't worry about that: I was 47 when I started mine (now 51) and its been my truest friend. It's seen all sorts of highs and lows and when you look back on yours in later years you'll be really glad you did it. You may also cringe at some of things you've written if you're opting for the "reality blogging" approach..

Sadly at this stage I can't make a donation as I'm deeply locked into a passionate affair with two sexy cameras who need regular feeding (and no, I never get any donations on my blog either) - maybe later when we're all famous :-)

So, all that remains is for me to wish you luck once more, and please, whatever happens keep writing the blog!

Dan said...

Very best of luck!

Dan, Garnet Publishing.

Chris said...

What could possibly go wrong?

Everything! but, at least you'll have fun doing so, and instead of pontificating that something should be done you actually got up off your arse and did it.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hooray hooray! I'm so pleased! Very best of luck - can't wait to see the new shop.

hydra said...

I didn't start my blog ( till I was 62!!! All the very best of luck. Wood Green needs a good independent bookstore and you sound committed enough to do the job. Have you contacted the Ham&High for publicity?

Anna Jacobs said...

Good luck to you and your bookshop. We need more people-centred bookshops

And if you'd like to contact me directly at
I've a couple of hints for you.


Anna Jacobs (author and also avid reader of other authors' books)

SylviaR said...

Good Luck to you - I will watch with interest.

I opened my bookshop 20 years ago and still going strong inspite of the doom and gloom sometimes appearing in the press. At least you have some good solid experience behind you and a waiting marketplace. I wish you all the luck in the world and hope that your enthusiasm is rewarded.
The Riverside Bookshop, London Bridge.

JonathanM said...

Best of luck, from the other side of town.

Grub Street said...

As a proud independent publisher we wish you the very best of luck. We need more independent bookshops like you to help create a vibrant bookselling culture. Stats show that the chains are suffering, no surpise there, and that it is the independents and on-line sales which are flourishing. Contact us if you want to deal direct or join Leading Edge who have formed the independent buying consortium.

Sylvia Hubbard said...

found u through booktrade....

taking these steps gives me hope that I can step out on faith and do this.

i'll be coming back to visit.

Paul Henderson said...

Hi and good luck. I knew the old shop as Ottakar's from when it opened and a fine shop it was too. Sad to see it or pretty much any shop close. Following on from Grub St's comment if you want to talk Leading Edge Books about our buying group for independents youcan call Paul or Iain on 01256 799140.
Paul Henderson, Leading Edge Books

Andy T said...

Hey, fantastic news Simon, though I think you're being a bit too modest saying that you have no idea. You've managed to get through more than half your life in the booktrade so far, and I think you're pretty damn good actually.
But what do I know?


Anonymous said...

Whatever it takes, do it!!!If you need any help,email me--I started my own shop (among naysayers) in a small community (10,000) in western Canada and it takes a hell of a lot of work but it is ever worth every bit!!!!I'm really chuffed that you're doing this!!!

renovator said...

Go for it! All the best of luck, from The Old Hall Bookshop - a fellow independent bookshop. You'll have fun!

Sam said...

I did it. And two years later we're in a much bigger building, 10 times the books, and finally hitting our stride. Go. Do.

Kaz said...

Very best of luck to the both of you. Will be watching with interest and undoubtedly a few giggles.

Kaz :oÞ
(ex-Hammicks, ex-Triptych, ex-Ottakar's, ex-Booksolve, now... where am I again?!?)

Zoe said...

I live just round the corner from Hawthorne Road Tim, I'll look out for you! (North View Road)

You know Centerprise in Dalston? Not sure what it's like now and times sure have changed but that was a bookshop (albeit a slightly loony, lefty one) that reached out to the had a good cafe too and the Rio cinema was across the road.

Then there was the Compendium in Camden, another erstwhile favourite haunt of mine. Long gone...for some reason. Stoke Newington bookshop was good too, don't know if that's still there, I imagine so.

I will scrape together some pennies and make a donation and also, I will spread the word about you to all my friends. Zoe.

maitresse said...

Best of luck! I've always dreamed of opening my own bookshop and love hearing stories of those who've done it... looking forward to reading!

Alan said...

Congratulations Simon and Tim and all the best for the future of The Wood Green Bookshop.

It sounds as though you plan to offer the good, old fashioned, traditional bookselling services to the people of Wood Green and beyond.

I remember when all good bookshops offered a book covering service. Unfortunately today, most booksellers do not have the time or the space to offer this extra service.

However, if you could cover any book in a custom-fit clear plastic jacket, using only three cover sizes, in 20 seconds, might you consider offering such a service?

If so, please check out The Leonardo and The Pocket at to see how you could enhance the excellent service you already plan to offer customers old and new.

All the best.

Alan @ CoverMyBooks

SarahS said...

This is top top news! I lobbyed Haringey Council at the last minute to try and stop the closure and their response was very positive particuarly from the Leader of the Council. Whilst this is an independent enterprise, I believe that Councillors were meeting recently to discuss how they could support new cultural businesses such as yours. Could result in some start-up capital?

As a resident of Wood Green and a publishing professional I totally support what you're doing and promise never to buy books from Amazon again when you're up and running! Any help or advise on marketing/live events and the live literature scene generally.....let me know.

.....this has made my week!

Tim West and Simon Key said...

thanks for the support. Please email me (my address is on my profile) so I can get your contact details. We always welcome any help we can get,

Anonymous said...

I'm 66 years old and thinking of opening a book shop in my town in the U.S. We have 50,000 residents and no book stores! I'll be watching your progress and taking good notes.

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