- Posted by admin@Unwin
- On 2nd July 2020
Since the lockdown, the Unwin Charitable Trust has quickly moved to offer more bespoke help and mentoring for booksellers. This includes a 30-minute chat that can be booked at short notice for specific challenges, general advice – or just to talk through practicalities and experiences now that we are slowly emerging from lockdown.
On Monday June 8th, we held a special #UCTmentor Twitter chat which coincided with many booksellers in Ireland re-opening for the first time. Together with our chat in May about preparing to re-open, we’ve put together a collection of some of the advice, tips and tricks that booksellers offered over the course of the two chats.
We were extremely lucky – and grateful – that so many booksellers dropped by to be extremely honest about their experiences (some of whom had only just opened that day), and to share what was working (and what wasn’t).
The next chat takes place on Monday, July 13th at 7pm. We will again be looking to booksellers sharing tips on how their shops have evolved since re-opening – or what they are doing to re-open in the weeks ahead.
Here is a selection of some of the comments and advice received during the chat:
- Don’t feel pressured into opening before you’re ready. But today was much calmer than I feared and [there was] lots of love and encouragement. Also, do your best but you’re not responsible for your customers!
- the important thing is to let customers know what you’re doing to protect them to gain their confidence.
- (In response to a question about a ‘time out’ basket for books that had been browsed) – We ask people to sanitise hands in and out but – like a supermarket – people seem generally aware not to overtouch!
- We ask everyone not to overly handle things they are not planning to buy and to use hand sanitiser on the way in.
- All the customers who came into our shop today took social distancing and hand hygiene really seriously and were appreciative of the measures we are taking.
- It’s hard to balance anxiety of staff and needs of customers. Everyone (on both sides) has different expectations.
- We had no more than one group queuing at a time yet we are steadily busy and sales were really good.
- I’m overthinking it. The stress will be far worse than actually opening the doors.
- That seems to be the view from bookshops in other countries who have reopened. See how it goes for the first few days and adapt. Most customers want you to survive and will support you.
- We have allocated 10-11 for appointments and had 2/3 booked today – fully booked tomorrow- but steady stream of customers all day.
- I was stressed in the leadup but it went really well. I rostered another staff member full time all week (in normal times it would just be 3 hrs) so that eased the pressure. I was totally shattered at the end of the day due to the stress – though so do allow for that.
The themes that we’ve teased out over the two chats seem to be:
- Only open when you and staff are ready to do so.
- Take safeguarding of customers and staff seriously.
- The stress of re-opening is probably worse that the reality of being open.
- However, there will be stress and extra work, so build in recovery time.
- Be prepared to keep monitoring the situation, get customer feedback and don’t be afraid to adapt if things aren’t working.
Unwin mentor Sheila O’Reilly wrote up an account of the experiences and realities of bookshops re-opening in Ireland, the day after the June chat. Read her comments and observations in The Bookseller.
If you have newly re-opened – or are about to re-open – good luck! And don’t forget that you can book a 30-minute Bookseller’s Mentoring Chat at short notice by emailing email@example.com and we’ll do our best to assign a mentor as soon as possible, by phone or video call (whatever you feel more comfortable with).
And please do join us for the next chat on Monday, July 13th at 7pm – follow #UCTmentor on Twitter to join in on the evening.