Rising to the Challenge in Chelmsford #CBC09 #CRE09

I’m still at the draft stage with my own thoughts on this year’s combined CBC/CRE, but in the meantime here’s an accolade for the Chelmsford  Diocesan Resource Centre and some food for thought from Dave Faulkner. Commenting on his visit to CRE, Dave wrote:

There were a few personal interests I wanted to look up. I always like the bookstalls, but resisted this year. Partly that was because I have several books piled up from the sabbatical, partly it was because brutally in an Internet age the deals weren’t that good. I know that will sound awful to some Christian booksellers who will rightly point out that Amazon is not a ministry, but a minister whose wife is not in paid employment only has so many pennies and cost becomes a real factor for us. (And I do support the local Christian bookshops whenever possible: the Diocesan Resources Centre is a mine of information; the other bookshop is the local agent for IVP’s Leadership Book Club, so they get some orders from me, too, when the good books aren’t too Calvinist!)

I replied:

Amazon — us booksellers need to stop moaning and rise to the challenge.

Dave responded:

Thanks, Phil, I’m sure you’re right. The Chelmsford Diocesan Resources Centre rises to the challenge by the quality of advice, knowledge and service by the woman who runs it. They are in one small room, carry very little stock, but Jo the manager is priceless. She has put me onto titles I wouldn’t have found in an ‘ordinary’ Christian bookshop and wouldn’t have known to look for on Amazon. Particularly she has done this w.r.t. school assembly material. When I arrived in Chelmsford, all the local ministers I spoke to, of whatever theological hue, recommended this place.

Today’s questions: how are you rising to the challenge in your bookshop? Are there other ways that we, as bricks and mortar retailers, can do better than Amazon in serving our local communities?  Join in the conversation — here or over at Dave’s place.

As for me, next on the agenda: add Chelmsford Diocesan Resource Centre to UKCBD: constantly amazed as I discover more and more shops that have somehow slipped through the net. Any more lurking out there?

4 thoughts on “Rising to the Challenge in Chelmsford #CBC09 #CRE09

  1. Thanks, Phil, for commenting on my blog and airing the issue here. If I get a chance, I’ll try to write something more extended on a punter’s-eye view regarding the pros and cons of bookshops and online. I am very enthusiastic about my theological books!

  2. Dave (and Phil),
    can I say thank you for this, for acknowledging in effect that size is not always the thing that matters – and also can someone send this on to some of the publishers!!

    The fact is that small can be beautiful and percieved space has little really to do with how much I can actually sell.
    Though the truth is that my seemingly small space is actaully as comprehensive as some much larger shops I have visited and know of – indeed today a customer commented on this to another person, now a customer, that they were bringing in to the shop and yes it gave me the warm fuzzies,(synchronicity of timing is a grand grand thing!).

    What I don’t have is the multiples, there are mostly only ones of a book unless it’s a real key title, core item or hot seller! Multiples have to be ordered, but I hope to be as quick as the online competitor and without the carriage charge! and generally they get a smile, a joke and some recommendations and on a really good day I even share the sweeties when they come in to get the books.

    What I hope they do get overall is a diverse range of titles not limited to any one churchmanship, style or subject matter. I hope they get breadth of knowledge – the books and mine!
    They get service, the ability to ask questions and have discussions, I hope that counts for something, they get to inform the stock decisions as well, after all my job is to serve them.
    They get my postcards to display and in return I display their events sheets!

    That’s just some of it – I do find I do very very well with offering hard to find searches, because the sheer number of books people want that are out of print or in reprint is always amazing!
    And yes of course a customer like Dave can do the internet route on this one themselves – but you know your time is precious so it’s got to be worth a little to get someone else to find it ( we do add on £1.00 to the cost of obtaining the book to make a little on it, but that’s all as it’s a service we are offering!) and we think it’s a worthwhile service, and truth is though customers may know the ‘named’ sites many specialist bookshops and their managers/staff know the hidden gems, (and sometimes even with that £1.00 we are still able to come in at less on a lot of the theological/ministry etc books!).

    I here admit I have’t read Dave’s actual blog yet so forgive me if I am talking silly and I am not meaning this as a criticism against Dave or anyone, especially as I totally do understand about saving pennies and how tight things can be (and I have been known to internet shop myself!). I also need to say this is not directed at Dave personally as he but reiterates what most people and customers generally think and that’s the bit to overcome!

    But what about talking to the bookshops and see if they can do you a deal on the books to match amazon or get near enough to not grieve you?

    or have you thought, if it is just a finance thing, how about asking them about secondhand copies? that way you get to keep the local bookshop running but still save on pennies?

    If it’s convenience and you don’t want to or can’t come in to pick up the book maybe tell them this and see if there is some deal that can be made – who knows they may live near you or be willing or able to get the book sent on to you, perhaps you can barter the carriage, one free post out for 2 pulpit recommendations and a newsletter mention!! that would probably work for me! oohh no, better yet, offer chocolate and good coffee with a shot caramel syrup – lots of christian bookshop bods have a weakness for the stuff and can probably be succesfully incentivized with it (oh wait a minute am I just talking about me again!)

    Better yet talk to your church peeps and try to con someone(oops I mean talk to nicely and inform of the rewards and benefits to themselves and their church!) into being a book agent for your whole church!
    There is probably at least one person that works near the shop or comes into the area at least a couple of times a week, or is already a regular visitor to the shop!
    This benefits the church and the bookshop and in turn the community!
    Ohh and that way you probably can get a guaranteed discount off the books anyway as most book agent schemes have a discount factor involved – usually that goes to the church funds but maybe it could go to the congregation to encourage reading and you can sell it as the church supporting a literacy development scheme for its parishioners! (or not – Grin)

    The point is these are all things we can do together as community, local physical community, to support each other. I also think these are things best offered by local bookshops.

    So on another, but the same note, well I posted a blog piece a couple of weeks ago on buying local, it was based on a piece in our local paper headed ‘Buy local to keep local people in jobs’, here’s the link to the blog piece, http://unicorntreebooks.wordpress.com
    and you can read the original article from there as well! mentioned in it are a few more ways we bookshops and customers as local community can support each other!

    Again thanks for raising this subject, both strands of it!, and sorry for going on so long!

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