As we all know, bookshops are the lifeblood of the book industry. There is nothing quite like wandering around between the shelves, browsing and coming home with an armful of books to hunker down with. Lockdown saw many independent bookshops having to rethink how they could get books to readers. Chorleywood Bookshop was just one of them.
At the start of 2021, just as Lockdown 3 was kicking in, the Chorleywood Bookshop in Herts had the opportunity to move to new premises in the town. As a consequence, the shop has been completely re-fitted to provide a beautiful bookish space for the local community in and around Chorleywood. As luck would have it, work on the new bookshop was completed just in time for the re-opening on 12th April – in fact the timing couldn’t have been better!
In this piece, co-owner Sheryl Shurville tells us about her aims for the new shop and some of the challenges along the way.
Tell us about your vision for the new bookshop and what you were aiming to achieve.
Situated prominently on a small High Street, Chorleywood Bookshop aims to be the jewel in the local retail crown, and a community hub for more than just bookselling. We’ve always tried to offer a warm, welcoming and accessible environment in which customers are encouraged to seek help or browse alone according to their preferences. With our new shop, we wanted to take this to the next level by creating a light, airy environment – somewhere with a friendly ‘boutique feel’, a place that feels ‘special’ while still retaining our trademark friendly and welcoming style. Our vision is for the bookshop to be a cultural hub for the community, a ‘destination’ that individuals and families will be keen to visit for pleasure and inspiration.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the move?
We had to manage the move as seamlessly as possible, leaving the old shop in pristine condition whilst simultaneously refurbishing the new one, just a few doors down. The new premises had to be completely transformed from a pizza restaurant to a bookshop in one month. This included a full rewiring, a new floor, removal of the kitchen and extraction units, plus the installation of new book cases and beautiful tables to showcase our books and gifts – all this during a lockdown with COVID restrictions in place. Despite several kind offers of help, we had to manage the move ourselves due the restrictions on mixing. It was such a mammoth task, but immensely rewarding – the books were being unpacked just as the builders were leaving!
Now that we’re easing out of lockdown, how are you trying to encourage customers back into the shop, especially those looking for new recommendations?
We curate our book displays very carefully to make them as appealing and customer-focused as possible, and we make great use of shelf-talkers on which staff can recommend their favourite current or classic reads with a few well-chosen words. It’s a great way of engaging potential readers who might be looking for a new recommendation, or who may like a prompt to start a conversation with us. We change the highlighted books regularly to inspire readers, and we find that these are very popular with our customers.
Our brilliant booksellers read a wide variety of literature from Wendy who loves crime fiction, to Gillian and Helen who read the latest releases, to Jacqui who is our expert on older fiction and literary biographies. Non-fiction is a huge area of interest for our customers too, and we regularly feature the new releases on politics, history and popular science. We also pride ourselves on showcasing books on local history, the countryside and other areas of specific interest to the surrounding community. Guides on local walks and cycling routes have been tremendously popular over the last year, and we can see that trend continuing well into the future!
How else has your business changed over the past year, particularly in light of the pandemic?
Like many businesses, we recognised the requirement to adapt and respond to our customers’ needs by developing new ways to reach and interact with our community, especially during lockdown. The bookshop (and our sister bookshop in Gerrards Cross) remained staffed throughout the pandemic to take customers’ orders by phone, email or via notes through the door! We’ve also been running a hugely popular ‘click-and-collect’ type service to enable customers to collect their books, greetings cards and gifts from the shop front door during the lockdowns. Now that we’re fully open again, it’s lovely to see people in the flesh, but we’re also continuing to offer these services for those who are still shielding or feel vulnerable about having wider contact.
We’ve also set up an amazing programme of live-steam author events by partnering with our friends Village Books in Dulwich and the Sevenoaks Bookshop in Kent. Live events have always been such a key part of what we do as they’re very popular with our customers and a great way for us to build greater engagement with our readers. However, these new online events enable us to reach well beyond the local community as they are accessible worldwide via Zoom – and they’ve proved tremendously popular! Recent events have included authors such as Jon Sopel, Maggie O’Farrell and Rachel Joyce, and we have events coming up with Max Hastings, Ann Patchett and Edmund de Waal, along with many, many more.
You can find out more about our events here.
And, if you’re interested, do sign up for our email newsletter – you’ll find the sign-up box on the right-hand-side of our events page – as we regularly have new things to announce!
How can we find you and discover more about your activities?
Chorleywood is at the end of the Metropolitan line on the London Underground and 35 minutes from London Marylebone Station by train.
You can follow us on twitter: @CWBookshop https://twitter.com/CWBookshop on Facebook: Chorleywood Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/ChorleywoodBookshop or Instagram: @cwgxbookshop. https://www.instagram.com/cwgxbookshop/
For our full events line up and more details about our shops please visit our website: https://chilternbookshops.co.uk/