Opening a UK Bookstore Part 3

Opening a UK Bookstore Part 3 (Jenks’ Story: Part 1 & Part 2)

Doom and Gloom

I didn’t write a blog last week. I couldn’t quite bring myself to admit that, since I started writing for about a month ago, the exact progress I have made in getting my dream of opening a bookshop off the ground is: none.

Six or seven weeks ago, when I moved my pet skull Bert and my home-made grammar posters into an archive box and cleaned the board off for the last time as I left my teaching career behind me, I was all awash with enthusiasm and ideas. I immediately got down to business; I sorted out a website for myself (to show the kids I was leaving behind where they could find me and to make them believe by doing this that they weren’t the reason I was leaving); I got the company Limited, and got files for all my documents; I spoke to the lovely Paul at Gardners about setting up an account; I made business cards to hand out to people at the festivals I was going to as my official Summer Holiday; I costed shelving and initial stock and safes and other such exciting bumpf; I applied to open a business bank account.
That’s where it’s all stopped, as for five weeks now I’ve been alternately sending forms and waiting. My bank doesn’t open accounts in-branch any more, and my postal system appears to be full of neglectful postmen (or worse, thieving – I’ve known it happen when I was in charge of posting at Blackwells in Oxford, it’s a scandal in this country. There is even a Youtube channel of them messing about. The first attempt, scarily full of personal, identity- proving document copies, seems to have completely disappeared. The second attempt, nearly two weeks later, this time sent by Special Recorded Delivery, has, according to the online postal tracker, arrived, but calling the bank the workers there didn’t seem to have it. Their recommendation? Call back…in a week. How will I know in the meantime if they’ve finally started processing my application? Will they call or email as requested? No. They’ll send a letter.

I didn’t really intend to start writing this blog as a venting system for my increasing frustration, but I’m starting to feel as though I’m going to fall at the first hurdle, and even the unexpectedly beautiful weather we’d had up until that point (everything you’ve heard about the British Summer is true) has suddenly disappeared beneath a gloomy cloud layer and interminable, moody rain in a show of uncalled-for pathetic fallacy. Without the bank account I can’t trade, as I can’t get an account with the wholesalers, can’t set up the retail website through them and prove I can make sales, so can’t go back to the bank and ask for a loan to open a shop with. The more worrying aspect though is that I have spent my last paid school holiday actually doing very little but waiting around when I thought I’d be painting walls and opening bookboxes, and the very real fact that very soon I will be living off the small savings I set aside for the first few months of what I imagined would be getting my fledgling business off the ground, with almost absolutely nothing to show for it let alone the beautiful educational book boutique that is now fading into the distance…

In short, I am disheartened.

In the meantime I’m attempting to keep my chin up and my bank account afloat with tutoring jobs – fingers crossed I get some soon! – and getting what’s there of the website sorted out so it’s not idly ignoring the free advertising it’s been getting lately. If needs be, I’ll be getting my boxes of secondhand stock out of storage, arranging them in my bedroom if there’s nowhere else, and selling them on . I’m almost completely certain that I’m going to have to put The Shop on hold and start with an online retail system. I read the other day on excellent UK business website that Number One on their ’10 Most Sustainable Sectors’ list is the online retail – no matter what you’re selling, people are buying, despite the downturn. (Number Two on their list? Funeral Homes.)

Silver Lining?

I open the floor for your own set-up stories…

4 thoughts on “Opening a UK Bookstore Part 3”

  1. Sorry to hear of your frustrations but something one of my long time staff taught me a few years ago might help – and even give cause for hope!

    I was telling her that even after many years in the business the breakthroughs enabling us to take our business to another level always seemed to be just barely beyond our outstretched fingers.

    She said, “Paul Simon wrote about that phenomenon in his song Slip Sliding Away – the line is The nearer your destination the more it’s slip sliding away.”

    In the years since then I have discovered that that phrase has been one of my greatest motivators – I hope it works for you.

    This is a business that demands perseverance and my guess is that a lack of an enormous dose of perseverance in our DNA is the biggest reason booksellers leave the business.

    Keep going – it will all work out just fine.

    • George, that’s a great story and thank you for it. Incidentally, I completely believe that music is the answer to everything, and this adds to that theory. I’ll have to listen to that tonight.

  2. why don’t you open an ebay acct and see if you can’t sell a few books there? If you have time on your hands a little charity shop scouting might find you a few books to get started –
    I started off by selling my own books on ebay

    • Laura, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, as my bookshop opening date approaches. Your first two articles were really inspirational as I have been going through a similar process (finishing one job after 11 years & wondering how to make my bookshop dream a reality). Being able to read about your thoughts & experiences was really good. Then came your early-September post & I was so disheartened for you. I’ve been eagerly opening up my Bookshop Blog emails hoping to hear from you. But there’s nothing. How are you going with your plans? I hope that you have had a positive outcome with the bank etc & are just too busy to post further developments. I would love to hear that you are okay. You have an Australian fan here.

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