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Published on January 17th, 2021 | by The Town Crier

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What a year. What a month. What a week.

I could be writing this at any time in the last six years, really. But, as you read this, it’s November or December and like many businesses here in Tonbridge we’ve been having to rethink how we work.

You understand, I hope, that Mr Books was never a get rich quick scheme. The ideas was for a fairly relaxed business that paid the bills. On the way, I hoped we’d spread a bit of light too. Champion thinking and reasoned debate perhaps; entertain a bit. We certainly wanted to be a place people enjoyed visiting.

Goodness knows, we’re in need of all that now more than ever.  And for the same reasons, it’s all the more difficult.

Those who follow @mrbooks_ton on twitter will know that we’ve been trying to keep going through the long lockdown. As I write this we’re in the second lockdown and with no certainty about how or when it will end.

The fact is that a few years into running the bookshop, we were (and are) still finding our feet; trying to work out the magic formula for a sustainable, profitable business.  In October I tweeted about having to close down again and my uncertainty about the future. After four months of surviving on half our usual turnover, could we face another month (or more) of closure? Would we survive into the new year?

The i-newspaper and Kent Online picked up the story thanks to my son’s retweeting and garnering a retweet from Mark Gatiss (he of Sherlock and League of Gentlemen fame). But lots of local (and decidedly not local) people rallied around to order books online.

The result? Well, lots of support online and maybe twenty unexpected orders both online and a few through the shop. One enthusiastic book buyer gave us her whole Christmas present list to sort out. I was, literally, moved to tears by some of the messages of support. We’re also getting support from authors eager to offer us signed copied (look out for announcements).  We ended that first (last?) day having taken more through the till than we sometimes have in a week.

But that was then. The bills keep coming in, as I’m sure you know from your own experience. People are still buying books – only not from their local bookshop. And our ‘walk-in’ trade has been devastated.

So, what does this all mean?

Well, I think it means that people have a choice. As I’ve said before. If you want a butchers shop, a fishmonger, a florist, a bakery and a bookshop in your town, you have to support them. And that means giving them your business week after week.

I worked out a surprising statistic as we went into lockdown for the second time. If every household bought ONE full price book from us only once a year, we’d be secure.

On an entirely unrelated matter Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owns about $133 billion worth of his company’s stock; that’s about 11% of the company’s value. If he cashed in and spent $10,000 a day, it would take him 36,000 years to go broke.

Makes you think, doesn’t it.


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