Meet Andrew at Dial Lane Books

Tell us about your business?

My 30 plus year dream to open and run my own bookshop became a reality on 2nd December when I got the keys to 8 Dial Lane. I had an epic launch party on 28th February and the shop was officially opened by the mayor. There were over 100 people in attendance and guests were treated to music by local musician Curtis Garrett as well as a string trio. 

I opened for business on 2nd March and enjoyed a fantastic and busy 3 weeks before Covid hit and Boris told me to shut up shop. 

A traditional bookshop I may be, but I do go out of my way to source unusual and unique books and titles and as well as genres such as art, photography, architecture and travel etc there is also a dedicated children’s section.

Something I am very proud of is that I am a big champion of local authors and not only happily stock each and every book that I am asked to, but I also choose books by local authors for the book club – the ‘Not Another Book Group Book Group’

Who are your customers? 

Anyone and everyone. Young and old. Book lovers and browsers. Avid, lifelong readers and those who have never picked up a book before. For me personally – and therefore also in regard to the shop – it’s as much about the book in its physical form and the sheer beauty of books and the feel and the smell of them, so it doesn’t actually matter if you read the book or not, they are things of absolute beauty.

I do rely heavily on repeat business and I have already built up a substantial and loyal customer base. This grew rapidly during lockdown as I began doing free local deliveries to anywhere in Ipswich the day after lockdown begun. And although this was never part of my plan, even if I wanted to stop the delivery service I doubt my customers would let me. I enjoy the 60/90 second chat with the customers at the end of their driveways and paths, and ultimately it’s about getting books to people and this is just another way of doing that. 

What else has changed for your business due to the pandemic?

I started heavily selling via Facebook and Instagram. I do not however have an online shop on my website and this is something that is unlikely to change simply because it’s not really my bag. I’m all for adaptability and change, however there are some things I won’t budge on. 

Also, I can’t have a shop full of customers – which I have to admit I absolutely hate – but other than that and implementing and maintaining the social distancing guidelines, it’s business as usual. The shop is big enough not to have to limit the amount of customers in the shop at any one time – within reason. 

If business was slow throughout lockdown, has it started to pick up again?

For me, business was anything but slow during lockdown, though since reopening I have found it difficult to deal with the lack of customers in the shop, though at the same time I completely understand. The worst thing from my point of view has been the introduction of the face masks.

That aside, I genuinely feel that I cannot do any more to boost business. I’m still selling loads via Instagram and Facebook – which is great – but it’s customers in the shop that I want and with the situation as it is, customers will only really return when they feel ready and safer. Which is hard, but totally understandable.

What gives you an edge over your competitors? 

One thing is that I can do same day delivery. I’ve had dozens of customers messaging about a book in the morning and if I have it in stock, then it gives me such a buzz to be able to deliver it later that same day. This obviously goes down well with the customers. 

Another area in which I feel I have the edge is that because my whole journey has been documented not only on social media, but also in the press, customers and the general public alike have been there with me from the beginning and feel part of my journey and of the shop.

Finally, what gives you confidence for the future of your business?

People will always need books. I am adaptable and am always up for trying new things and the love and support I have received from everyone since day one will only continue and get stronger.

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