Jane Seaton at Beaufort Street Books gives us an insider's scoop on independent bookselling in Australia.
Tell us the story of your bookshop: how, when and why was it established, and how has it changed since then?
We opened in June 2010 in Beaufort St Mount Lawley. I had been looking for an appropriate site for approximately 18 months and was interested in Beaufort St because of its foodie culture and the number of schools in the area. We haven’t changed a lot I don’t think, we continue to do a lot of events with travelling authors but have a real passion for local authors and working with other local businesses.
What makes your bookshop unique?
All Indies are different – they are a reflection of their communities but are also a reflection of all the people that work there. Over the years, as our staff have changed, we tend to hold different backlist titles.
We love what we do and our customers – I think that comes across in our customer service, but I don’t know that is any different to any other store that loves what they do.
What is your take on the current climate for independent bookselling in Australia?
In general retail is doing it tough. However, bookshops have not shrivelled up and disappeared as previously suggested. In fact, as a board member of the Australian Booksellers Association, we are seeing more shops opening across Australia than closing, and they are independent shops. While authors are still writing and book lovers still reading physical books the publishers and booksellers will stick around, but our product offering needs to be in line with the consumers' interests.
What are the most popular genres in your store? Have you noticed any changes over the years or have book-buying trends remained consistent for you?
Children’s, cooking & quality fiction are the most popular genres. These have remained the same throughout. Initially, when we opened, cookbooks were a lot more popular than they are now, however the healthy/raw/vegetarian/plant based books have really frown in the last 18 months and far outsell other areas with cooking. Children’s has been steadily growing and expanding over the years.
What’s the most bizarre question a customer has asked you?
"You seem to do a lot of author events, do you think you will ever have Steig Larson in for a signing?" This was about 12 months after he had passed away.
What’s the juiciest thing you’ve overheard in your bookstore?
Not that it is the juiciest thing, but the most memorable - we have had a few people in shortly after finding out they are pregnant – I mean in the really early days!! They drop in to purchase their first pregnancy book and I still get a kick out of being the 3rd person to find out and the fact and it will be a secret that the 3 of us share for a couple of months.
In your opinion, what qualities make a good reader?
I don’t know I can answer this. Everyone reads for different reasons and what you choose to read is very much based on what else you are doing in your life. Sometimes you need something really light and humorous if you are really busy at work or being a parent, sometimes such as when you are on holiday you can read something more involved and longer because you have the time!
What is your vision for the future of Beaufort Street Books?
More of the same........maybe one day, one of those little one’s who use to come to our kids reading sessions, will be in to purchase their very own first pregnancy book........who knows.
List your top three tips for someone wanting to open their own independent bookstore.
- Your location is probably the most critical decision you will make regarding your store – make sure you are surrounded by businesses that will attract the type of customers you are also looking at, and for the times you anticipate being open. Make sure there is at least one bank on the street – its a good sign that they then feel it is an attractive business location.
- Cash flow is one of the most important aspects of your business to manage.
- Spend time visiting other bookstores, looking at what they have done that you want to replicate. There is no right or wrong but you can draw on what others have done that will fit with your vision. If you are new to the industry, see if you can find someone to mentor you for a while. I am currently working with a person who will be opening a Children’s bookstore in Fremantle early in 2016.
Beaufort Street Books is located at 567 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, and can be reached on (08) 6142 7996.