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Christian Bookshops, UK

Geoff Wallace shares his experience of running two Christian bookshops in the south of England.

Where are your shops? Maranatha is based in Uxbridge, just off the High Street. We started the shop with another couple back in 1976. Being on the edge of Greater London we serve both town and rural communities. We took over the LST Bookshop in August 2011. The shop is based inside the London School of Theology and serves staff, students and is open to the general public.

How do they differ? Both shops are specifically Christian bookshops and stock a wide range of the church spectrum. Maranatha is about 850sq ft and has about 55% books, 10% CDs and DVDs, 15% cards and 20% gifts. There are 2.5 staff including me. We also offer a photocopy and fax service which brings people in.
   LST is about a third of the size with 75% books and the rest made up with cards, gifts and lots of tuck. The books are mainly academic although we have a range of popular titles.

What kind of books do you sell? We just sell Christian titles in both shops (there are two other bookshops in the town) although we can order any title a customer wants. Bibles are very popular and at Maranatha we give a generous amount of space to children’s titles because we want to encourage the habit of reading. We sell second-hand books in both shops but have a wide range of them at LST accounting for about 20% of our total sales. 

How many titles do you generally have in stock? Maranatha has about 3,500 and LST about 1,500.

What are your current bestsellers? What Did I Come Upstairs For? Gift book by the Leprosy Mission; Nearing Home by Dr Billy Graham: reflections on his life; Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic – a totally inspiring book by someone with no arms or legs.

Are online sales important to you? We do not have our own online sales site. However, we have just joined Hive and so will see how it develops.

Are e-books and e-readers relevant to your business? Up until now we have been unable to be involved although through Hive things will change. I have been extremely surprised that not one of the publishers that I support regularly with orders has ever suggested ways that I could sell their e-books.

How important is social media for your business? I try to post things regularly on both Facebook pages and occasionally on Twitter (when I remember). We do get some feedback but remain to be convinced that it leads to sales. For example, we have sometimes put a free book offer on Facebook with no takers.

Do you organise in-store events? At Christmas we host book evening for local church groups.

Are you involved in church and community events? We provide bookstalls for local churches.

Where do you see the Christian book trade five years from now? Christian bookselling is a ministry and shops will try to keep open despite the dire economic situation. However, the internet will (is) take its toll and those that remain will probably have no CDs or DVDs, far fewer books and more card and gift. However, the publishers just might wake up and start to see that they need us on the high street. Miracles can happen!

About you

What did you do before becoming a bookseller? I was an Industrial Chemist at Kodak.

What are you reading at the moment? Kneeling with Giants by Gary Hanson – a book about different ways that key leaders in the Church have prayed down the centuries. Reformation Experience by Eric Ives. This is a fascinating book showing how the Reformation affected the lives of the person in the pew. Relentless by John Bevere. (to keep a balance).

What book would you most like to have written? Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Batch and Your Business

How long have you been using Batch? Since March 2004.

Are you on Batch Returns? No. My main suppliers are not yet set up to use it.

Do you use the Claims facility? Very rarely. Our suppliers are very good. But it is a very useful procedure when needed.

Why should Christian booksellers use Batch? The main reason I use Batch is because it is simple, straightforward, free and very easy to use. Batch saves time and so therefore it saves money. It’s a no-brainer. Invoices can be authorised online at any time up to the payment deadline and once done you can forget about them. There are now 18 Batch suppliers that I use from time to time. For an additional £2 per week I use BIS (Batch Integration System) which automatically links to my Sage accounts. Invoices from Batch suppliers are downloaded into Sage, paid on line in Batch and automatically updated on Sage. I don’t have to type any of these invoices up manually. It’s the best £2 spent because it literally saves me hours each month and frees me up for other things.

Geoff Wallace, Manager
Maranatha Christian Bookshop
22 Windsor Street

Tel: 01895 255748
Facebook: MaranathaUxb
Twitter: MaranathaUxb

Jan Wallace, Manager
LST Books and Resources
London School of Theology
Green Lane

Tel: 01923 456130
Facebook: LSTbookshop
Twitter: LSTBookshop