News

The fate of Chapter One so far...

 

We have now been trading for 3 months and the realities of running a bookshop has been... a mixed experience.

 

Time to take stock and gear up for a long list of improvements to come. So many ideas, so many possibilities... and all I wanted to do was read books and drink coffee until I'm old and grey... not just yet though, there's work to be done here.

 

BOOK SALES

Book sales for us so far have been so so. Don't get me wrong, we have sold over 20% of our starting stock which is great but we had greater ambitions.  Personally, our book sales could certainly be much better but then we don't have nearly the amount of titles we would ideally like.  Perhaps the quality of the titles are appealing to some but the lack of choice is putting others off?  Most bookshops have been trading for over 30 years and have built up a sizeable variety of titles over the years, unfortunately we do not have that advantage just yet.

 

 

We have only been trading for 3 months so it is to be expected!  With unsigned windows and very little external indication of what lies inside the store we have left it up to customers to walk in and 'discover' our little hidden gem.

Another issue to be improved on is the lack of staff presence on the 'book-side'.  With our café pulling in a constant stream of visitors it is hard to find the time to jump on the 'book-side' reception desk.  With recent studies showing that 49% of books are sold on recommendations then perhaps this could be contributing to our less than average book sales.

 

 

Having spent the last of our £20,000 budget it is now apparent that that sheer size of the bookshop has swallowed our 3,500 titles!  We must continue to trade in order to both replenish and expand on what we have now.

On the plus side, it is screamingly apparent that the 'real-book' trade is not dead.  In fact, it seems to be on the increase again.  The UK is experiencing a post-hibernation style revival with booksellers and publishers beginning to stretch their legs and rub their tummies in the run up to Christmas 2015.  It seems e-book sales have seen a decrease this year too which is good news for all of us in the book trade.  Picking a book to read in a bookshop, with the smell of the pages, the gold foil, the clothbound cover and the quality in the weight of a real book is as much fun as reading the book itself, something an e-book can't do for you.

I have found the following to be our saving grace factors in remaining open:

  • The overall look and feel of the shop as a creative, expressive chill-out, social-lounge space.
  • Hand picking our starting stock gave us control over the quality of the titles which utilised our limited budget in the best way possible.
  • The provision of tea, coffee and cakes to survive the early months and also to create a time-slowing effect in the bookshop.  Customers can really make a day of their visit or just pop in for a calming lunch break.
  • The 4,000 sq ft floor space.  Whilst it has made our book stock look minimal it has also given the bookshop a spacious feel and lots of room for us to grow into.

Feedback from our customers at 'discovering' the store has been overwhelmingly positive that we hardly seem doomed to failure in the face of so much enthusiasm.  Our regulars have been central in spreading the word by pulling in friends and family and returning time after time.  Generous visitors have donated to our 'Used Books' section so we can appeal to all types of shoppers and publishers have been in constant contact, keeping us up to date with what's new on the market.

Our idea to provide 'Reading Copies' of all our titles has been a hit with customers.  We've watched loungers sit for hours with a reading copy, a blanket and a pot of tea, secure in the knowledge that they are 100% sure of their purchase.  In 3 months we have had 0% returns on purchases.

This has also ensured that the 'Buying Copies' are wrapped and kept in perfect condition for sale.  None of our stock has ripped covers or dog eared corners thus de-valuing the book.  The decision to invest in a pricey shrink wrap machine has certainly paid off as we haven't lost any stock to damage so far.

So few bookshops have opened in the last year there is no readily available advice to be sought on these matters. Let's see what 'Phase 2' holds in store for us on the book front!  We have many ideas in the pipeline now that we know what our foundations are made of!

 


 

THE CAFÉ

It's fair to say that our wonderful coffee has been keeping Chapter One financially alive. 

With Foundation Coffee, Ezra and Gill and Tariff and Dale all opening around the same time as us it was a worrying time for the Chapter One team.  We have been competing with slick, well honed industrial chic shop fits with elite equipment and previous corporate experience backing up these financially charged coffee houses... so big, and shiny and alluring in their newness.  We also knew we were sandwiched between two pillars of coffee excellence in the NQ with long-standing formidable standards... 'Fig and Sparrow' and 'Takk'.  A nail biting time!

However, the small but mighty power of Ancoats Coffee's speciality roast operation combined with our more relaxed shop decor seems to have done the trick, yay!  We thankfully, have provided something 'different' in the stores ambience and something delectable in the coffee's smooth City Warehouse roast... To a profitable effect.

 

 

Tea and cakes have also helped to bolster sales figures.  Pairing the romance of an 'afternoon-tea' vibe with books has been well received whilst our hot food menu has left customers questioning, 'Is this all on offer?'.

 

Although not all our café experiments have gone so smoothly!

 

Improvements to be made in 'Phase 2' are more of an operational factor in the café.  We will need more seating, better coffee menus and a chef to expand on our hot food options and a blurring of the boundaries between the café-side and the book-side. Onwards and upwards!

 


 

EVENTS

The events have been a wonderful experience.  With 7 book launches in September and more lined up in October we have been having a great time sipping wine, nibbling on canapés and celebrating so many talented authors both local and from afar.

 

 

Our small theatre space is functional but still unfinished decor-wise and so has not been advertised to any great effect as yet.  A guaranteed improvement for our 'Phase 2' plans where we hope we can advertise these exciting events to the general public well in advance.

We hope the quality of events and the outstanding turnout continues into the rest of the year.

 


 

OVERALL

We have seen profits increase across the board month on month.

Bookshops and real-books are not a dead venture although certainly a risky investment.  You have to be realistic and give it all you have in order to make it work.

We will be busy making improvements to the store and it's services as we enter into 'Phase 2' of Chapter One's setup.

 

Phase 1 has seen us off to a good start!

 

 

 

 

10 comments

Jun 18, 2016

The bus i often use, always goes past Chapter One, from the bus window i used always see the place and became curious, so one afternoon i decided to check it out and the moment i stepped into the space, i fell in love! One of my favourite spot in Manchester.

Hushneara
Mar 24, 2016

Chapter One is absolutely my favourite place in Manchester – it’s so calm and relaxed! The coffee’s really good, and that’s saying something in the NQ. I do agree that the shop looks a little sparse, but I suppose that’s really because of the huge size of the place. All books (apart from discounted reading copies) are full price too, and whilst I understand that it’s hard to offer discounts when you’re a small outfit, I do think you’ll struggle against the likes of Waterstones and Amazon if you don’t have promotions from time to time. Personally, I’d rather spend a little more on fewer books if it supports a great place like Chapter One, but not everyone’s the same!

Pete
Jan 10, 2016

One of my favourite coffee/bookshops in town. I stumbled upon Chapter One with some friends a few months ago when walking back to Piccadilly Gardens and your pancakes and coffee seriously hit the spot! I often find myself telling people about it whenever they ask for NQ cafe suggestions and we’ve been back a couple of times since. I look forward to spending many more afternoons there!!

MC
Dec 28, 2015

Just found out about you today! Can’t wait to visit but am dismayed to see that you are closed on my day off – Monday!!
Ah well, Saturday it is then…

Raheel Khokhar
Dec 18, 2015

Nearly walked by but curiosity got the better of me, phew! So exciting to discover a space like this in Manchester, with its Barcelona vibe, it feels quirky and relaxing and a real discovery. I like the style of the place and the stock is charmingly presented. 3 books bought and I’ll be back for more! Buena suerte para 2016!

Ellie
Dec 07, 2015

Was in Manchester for the weekend and am still exploring all the different areas. NQ is quickly becoming my favorite. I walked past the bookshop on Saturday thinking it looked so very ‘me’ and I would simply have to come back on Sunday however it was closed. After reading this I am beating myself up for not coming in on the Saturday, after all time should always be made for coffee, cake and a good book.

Felicity
Oct 30, 2015

First visit today and thought the bookshop was fabulous, with the type of books I love – art , poetry and good literature stuff too. Bought some books as there are not many places that sell such interesting titles. Absolutely love the vibe of the place, the layout is spacious and inviting and the fountain adds a relaxing sound. The comfy chairs are genius and will I return to sample the cafe delights too (with a good book to read on the chill out chairs). Massive good luck with the venture.

Jan
Oct 15, 2015

I’m so sad that I’ve walked by the bookstore many times and not ventured in! I will admit that I had thought it was a restaurant at first sight.

I’ve interned and worked around the NQ for the past year now, (and currently interning directly opposite!), and as a lover of books this is simply not done. I’ve never seen an indie book shop that is comfy and looks classy, they’re all usually cold, messy and very awkward to be in.

I won’t lie.. It has been my dream to have a café and bookstore in one, I will definitely be aiming for a visit soon!

Ash
Oct 13, 2015

A brave and honest update. Very proud to see a photo of my little book among the beauties on your table. When it comes out I will be sure to tell friends to head to Chapter One for their copy.

phaedra
Oct 12, 2015

I’m glad that you’re not going anywhere! I love that you have intersting editions of books in the shop and really appreciate the reading copies. I also love the relaxed sitting areas for tea and cake (more squashy chairs!) You’re my favourite Saturday afternoon spot. Can’t wait to see the next phase!
A happy customer.

Morag

Leave a comment