Wayne Winstone owns three bookshops in the South West of England. He opened the first in Sherborne in 2012. Winstone’s Sidmouth followed in June 2014 and he took over and bought the freehold of Hunting Raven in Frome in 2016.
How many books do you have on display at any one time?
We have between 8,500 and 9,000 in Sherborne; 7,500 in Sidmouth and 8,500 in Frome. Each shop is run independently from the other, so there is no sharing of stock.
What type of events do you hold at Sherborne?
We tend to hold events in the shop every month and we also take authors into local schools – children’s is the best category across all the shops. We can host about 60 people in the shop and use outside venues for larger gatherings.
Festivals are important to us, I’m a founder of the Sidmouth Literary Festival and am on the committee for the Sherborne Literary Festival. We are involved in the organisation of Frome Festival, but the set up is slightly different.
What are the key things that make a good bookshop?
Location! You need an anchor store nearby and decent parking. Obviously, you also need to understand the market and curate the books to that market and provide a good service. Clear signage is also very important to help a shop appeal to customers who perhaps aren’t familiar with the range held in the bookshops.
The other key element is data, both sales data and accounting. I use a range of packages to manage stock and sales and Xero for accounting. It is essential to keep careful control of costs; for me that has meant that I don’t have any debt and own the bookshops outright.
What have been the best-selling titles at the Sherborne shop so far this year?
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and Charles Spencer’s history To Catch a King: Charles II’s Great Escape (event sales). We currently have a Summer Reads promo on and that is leading with Caro Fraser, Jon Sopel, Elly Griffiths, and so on. Each book has a review written by one of the team.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the book trade?
Gosh! Optimistic, but you can’t be a hobbyist. You have to use data and manage your overheads. You need to attract thinking customers who will pay full price. If you aren’t in control of the business, that view could easily switch to pessimism.
What advice would you give to someone considering opening a new bookshop?
Do your research. Location is key. Talk to other shops in the area to try to gauge whether there is a competitor coming in before you commit. Before signing on the dotted line, check rent tie-in periods, business rates and town development. Look at the longevity of the market: you should be thinking five to ten years in advance because bookshops are hard to untangle.
Events are very important because they create a buzz around the shop and help to increase the footfall. We also have a small café area at Sherborne, which doesn’t create huge income but creates a destination/meeting place. The other key thing is to create a compelling offer and provide customers with a strong range.
What has been your best/worst bookselling decision?
Best? The people I’ve recruited, I have a great team of booksellers – we are 12 in all. Worse? Some of the sites I’ve let go. [Wayne has plans to open a fourth shop, somewhere in the South West.]
What are you reading at the moment?
Jon Sopel’s If Only They Didn’t Speak English: Notes from Trump’s America, which I’m not enjoying all that much, only because much of the content is already well reported. I’ve just started Breakout at Stalingrad, which was written by captured German soldier Heinrich Gerlach in 1943 and only rediscovered recently. The author’s background makes his novel quite compelling.
Which shops give you bookseller-envy?
I’m envious of bits from everywhere, but especially Waterstones in Bath. I like magpie-ing: copying the best parts from a range of shops.
What are you looking forward to this year?
The books coming out over the next trading period – the last quarter – are looking stronger than last year, which was what we charitably call a ‘range’ year. In other words, there were no strong themes or stand-out titles. This year, we’re looking forward to books by Sebastian Barry, Kate Mosse, Max Hastings and Judith Kerr. Celebrity books are small beer for Winstone’s.
How does Batch help your business?
Batch is great although there are frustrations due to suppliers and publishers not understanding or using it properly.
8 Cheap Street
10 High Street
Devon EX10 8EL
10 Cheap Street
Somerset BA11 1BN