(Updated with Images of facefronted sections as requested by Phil Groom in the Comments section - cause we always aim to please!)
I have just been told by a customer that they had been told that we here at Unicorn Tree Books & Crafts didn't have a lot of Christian Books in stock!
They told me they would be going back to Church and suggesting perhaps the person that told them that should actually look and not make an assumption based on a quick glance around what seems like an admittedly small space - as he felt we had an exceptionally wide and varied selection more than equal to some large shops he had been in.
I thanked him for his kind words.
Based on this I just checked the system and currently we have 2273 different Christian titles in stock in the Christian books section and that doesn't include multiples of the same title - it is solely individual actual titles in stock right now, it also doesn't include Childrens Books & Resources, Bibles or service books!
So now I need to see what those excluded sections carry too - this enquiring mind needs to know!
In terms of Bibles - there are 102 different Bibles & New Testaments and then 46 Different Childrens Bibles as well in stock.
Childrens Books & Resources has 497 Different titles in stock.
In terms of Service books - there are 38 listed and then a few pamphlets/leaflet types not actually accounted for on the system.
So in total there's 2956 individual christian/religious titles recorded on the system and probably just over 3000 titles if we include the tracts, pamphlets, leaflets and books without barcodes that aren't listed on the system! And remember that's individual titles and not just books stocked as that's going to be a much higher figure due to multiples, oh and it doesn't include secondhand stock!
And yes that is just the Christian section, in the general section we have 3982 new books and probably just under that in secondhand!
Now don't get me wrong I know this still makes me a small bookshop - actually I like that it's a small independent bookshop - it means I know my stock, my customers, my delivery drivers etc perhaps a bit more than I would if I was having to run a large bookshop with all the administration and work involved in that, but it's certainly not the smallest selection of Christian Books there on the shelf - indeed I'm pretty sure that's more books than at times we had in some SPCK shops (so ok I know that's quite a few more than I ever had in stock in the Brighton SPCK back in 2000, and probably about comparative to the Lincoln SPCK).
I've been thinking about this most of the morning and pondering therefore why it is that some people think we don't have many Christian Books instock given how many we do have, is it a now unreal expectation based on the wide range available online? possibly but to be honest I think what makes the difference is the display - it is a perception thing.
You see there is not much (indeed one could almost say no) room for face fronting of books here in the shop, that's a sadness but it's also a choice I have willingly made - you see I value breadth of offering and range, so given the small space I decided I'd rather have a good wide selection of books and titles spanning a multitude of subjects and churchmanships, than have a pretty face front and probably multiple heavy but significantly lessened range of books.
So therefore people don't see a pretty display of lots of face front books, they see lots of spines and due to the way they are now educated to perceive ranges of books (face front and lots of piled multiples on tables and shelves) in most bookshops like Waterstones, WHSmiths, Publishers Clearance Warehouse, The Works, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Amazon - when they then don't see this they assume there's not much there - they don't browse the shelves properly, they just make a decision based on perception for the most part.
Of course this is a generalisation and many book buyers really do browse and do appreciate the choice of range over display, but it is something I have to consider and work on - indeed as does everyone - therefore at the back of the shop there are now two small bookcases that look up the shop so when you turn into the department they face you - previously they were used for displaying gifts etc - now they are being used to display 'New Titles - Just In' face front and special promotions face front.
I'll wait and see if it makes a difference to how people percieve the size of the shop and range, but I'm still not willing at this time to sacrifice the range of books for the face front look, I'd rather sacrifice a few other things first - and yes that's my choice and it may be a little to my detriment, but less range is certainly to the detriment of the people who need the books that day or just may come across that one life affirming or altering book in amongst those spine facing books.
A few months ago I saw one shop self describing itself as large due to an impressive 7000 product lines, is this a good indicator?
Because I'm always intrigued by statements like product lines, you see if I started adding in just the prayer cards (120 different designs on just one spinner), candles (53 different sizes and types), music (212), dvd (48), gifts (127 in the display cabinet, 42 different witness pins on the spinner -and I am not going and counting how many different childrens items, stickers, and gifts there are on the 3 other displays!) and cards (26 different card headings, I think at stocktake it was something like 287 different designs not including seasonal cards!), Church Stationary and Requisites ( 7 different types of wafers, 8 incenses, lots of different certificates,applications, registers etc!), let alone the christian craft items and so on then the numbers of product lines really do soon start rising.
So I'd be interested to know how many titles other shops have and what size they consider themselves to be.
On the whole i'm still admitting to being a small bookshop - but I don't think the range we carry is really too bad at all for our size and I'm just glad I get to be here and share it with others and am always happy at the surprised joy on some people faces when they really look beyond the initial impression and realise we had just what they wanted after all.
So there we go that's the bookshop boss done pondering for now - time for a maple syrup flavoured coffee I think - nothing like a bit of a change of pace now and again, especially after serious thoughts!
So anyway come in, browse and, we hope, stock up soon - we'll look forward to seeing you, recieving an email from you, chatting on the phone (01522 525557) with you or even facebooking or twittering with you!