However, what does it really take to run a
Buying a bookshop
Tan told us that when he first told friends he was buying a bookshop they wanted to know why; “a lot of my friends said to me
Tan, who previously worked in pharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as working as an extra in TV and film, was originally looking for a gift shop or a coffee
Tan bought his business with a mixture of existing savings and small loans. He also re-mortgaged his house; “I stretched the mortgage as far as it can go, so if things do go pear-shaped, I can still meet my payments by doing an ordinary job somewhere".
Tan used multiple sources of money to raise his finance, and he took risks, but he sensibly made sure his risks were calculated, and that he had a
It took Tan four months to complete the purchase, from the initial offer through all the necessary paperwork. "First, we had to
Tan advises "it's better to get things right, and get what you want, rather than rush into something you might regret later".
Running the shop
Tan gets to the shop for about
Tan also told us "you have to be a people person to work in the retail trade. You’ve got to be prepared to be nice to people and you've got to be prepared to deal with people who are a bit rude to you. You have to be able to handle complaints and queries. You need a lot of patience".
You also have to be prepared for the initial challenges of opening a bookshop and be ready for a period of learning and adjustment.
Tan says "the first few months were really intense, learning everything” even though the previous owner provided guidance and advice. "It was hard getting to know all the different suppliers - we have over 5,000 titles here - different books, different customers - some customers expect you to remember what they want - so there's a lot to learn."
The shop has a healthy regular turnover but Tan is looking to further develop the business through expanding their offer with more niche products. "We do cards, of course, but I'm looking at collectors of vintage books, we're doing some vintage comics, some collectors comics. We might do some second-hand books.”
What’s holding him back is lack of space so he wants to develop the new aspects of his business online. Running a bookshop in the digital age presents advantages as well as challenges.
Tan argues that you should always be looking to increase turnover. “A lot of people will come in, and if they can buy the book a pound or two cheaper online they'll go and buy them elsewhere. They do their research here.”
It’s also a challenging financial market as people are being more careful with their money. Tan noted that even in his relatively affluent area people are still being cautious about making purchases. “Where in the past they might have spent money on six books in a month, now they're only spending money on two or three. A lot of people are cutting back.”
Tan’s key tips
- Take a risk!
- Expand your product line
It seems, at least from Tan’s experience, you just have to take the plunge, have a plan B, and then think creatively about expanding your business. "Sometimes you've just got to take a chance”. There’s a reason to believe anything is possible and “you never know what's around the corner”.