If nothing else 2016 was a challenging year. With so many different changes happening so fast it left a lot of people uncertain about what was and still is next in store. For us it wasn't different, without the economical and political changes that certainly affected our small business - for better or for worse? - we had plenty of changes happening within the business itself.
Leaving Portobello market left us with plenty more time to work on the website but also with a gap that was hard to fill. Having started with a 'mobile book shop' that went on for four years we were quite used to our customer base and had found our 'identity' with the wine boxes display and lots of positive comments coming our way.
So in 2016 we did a lot of soul searching...
trying to replace what we had at Portobello. This search lead us to Bristol and Saint Nicholas Market. After a positive start in what is a very buzzing part of Bristol – very close to the Registry Office we were witnesses to many weddings, hen and stag parties, not to mention Bike & Antique Car conventions and a Naked Bike Ride – it was soon clear that the market wasn't for us, the new venue lasted just a few months.
Alongside that we had The Frome Independent Market, our local market, five minutes down the road. It is fair to say that we both love it, it has character, it's extremely well organized and thought out, it happens in an old market town and has the support of the community that flood the streets of Frome every month. However, as our stock grew better we grew more and more concerned with the weather and the perils of outdoor trading. The rain, the wind, the sun, there was always something to worry about so at the end of the year, with a very heavy heart, we decided that we wouldn't apply for 2017 market. Anyway, this decision will leave us with the opportunity to enjoy the market as visitors, to be able to browse, relax, eat well and have a cider in the few free weekends will have during the year.
And finally, in 2016 we joined the PBFA, as we mentioned before, in an attempt to improve our standing in the book trade. With a modest list of book fairs, mainly in the West Country, we soon realized how wonderful it is to trade indoors so that even if it is a rainy or windy day you don't have to worry about your books getting wet or being blown about. Not to mention being amongst other fellow booksellers from whom you can learn, trade with and have a conversation in case the fair goes a bit quiet.
The book fairs were indeed a rewarding experience and that is why 2017 is what is likely to be known as the Year of the Travelling Booksellers... With a varied offer of PBFA Book Fairs around the UK we set ourselves the challenge of doing thirty fairs going as far as Edinburgh and Penzance. The idea is to meet different booksellers, customers, Airbnb hosts, hopefully make some new friends and enjoy different parts of this beautiful place called the United Kingdom – British weather please be merciful!!
Tomorrow we start with Stratford-upon-Avon and hope that the birth place of one of, if not, the most famous writer in the English language – William Shakespeare – will get us off to a wonderful year of hard work and good travelling.
Watch this space as we relate our adventures for the year to come, the year of the Travelling Booksellers!