For April’s Bookshop of the Month, we took a trip up to Scotland to visit Hyndland Bookshop in Glasgow. Set up by two former librarians, the shop is situated in a very attractive part of the city’s West End and has been an integral part of Hyndland’s high street for over 20 years. We spoke to owner David about their charming location, refreshingly varied stock and the changes they have undergone in the past three decades…
1. What’s it like running a bookshop in Hyndland? How have you seen the area change over the years and has your bookshop changed with it?
Hyndland is a strikingly beautiful part of Glasgow’s West End, close to the university. It has a village atmosphere and despite the best endeavours of developers there’s not been too much physical change.
We have been in business since 1982 and in this location since 1997, so we have experienced bookselling both before and after the demise of the net book agreement and, of course, since before the digital revolution. These changes have been quite dramatic over time. For example, in the past reference books and maps would be meat and drink to any bookseller but these lines have practically all disappeared.
We have also dramatically changed our way of presenting books. We were originally very traditional – heavy oak bookshelves with all books crammed in spine on. About 10 years ago we decided to drastically change our displays and we slimmed the number of titles we held down from around 7,500 to around 3,000. We attempt to display as many books as possible front on and by doing this we have found that each customer picks up many more books per visit. It makes it much easier for them to see and so it has increased the number of books each customer buys per visit. As we have mostly regular customers we have to keep changing our stock constantly in order that customers will see something new on each visit. For this reason we probably take a larger proportion of new titles to backstock than other bookshops.
2. How do you go about choosing the books that line your shelves?
We still read a wide range of reviews from print media and scour publishers’ catalogues. Of course we also look online mostly by using wholesalers’ excellent classified lists. Television is not so prominent as it once was in book promotion but occasionally we will get caught out. Radio however is still as important a medium for book reviews as in previous decades.
Our stock profile is quite eclectic and customers are always telling us they see books in our shop that they’ve never seen anywhere else, which is encouraging. We do not do many events or promotions due to lack of space but we spend an inordinate amount of time getting to know individual customers. That way you get a feel for what might interest them directly or spark their imagination.
3. How has your previous career as librarians influenced the way in which you run your shop?
Well, when working for government departments one learns a lot of bureaucratic methods which we hopefully have slimmed down to a minimum. Still, it has probably helped us keep an eye out for detail which is so important when running a business. It’s easy to let things slip so we have to keep on top of everything behind the scenes in order for customers to have a good experience. Keeping on top of the boring stuff has meant we’ve lasted the pace while others have gone out of business. We are now the only independent bookshop in Glasgow or the West of Scotland mainland.
The old professional librarians course we were on in the early 70s was very rigorous and we probably learned more than most about information retrieval, bibliography and publishing so it gives one a wider general knowledge which I think has helped a lot.
4. Who would be your dream customer and why?
More customers is always the dream. Shops are increasingly destinations as footfall has dropped over the years.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop that you’d like to share with us?
Another major refit is imminent and after that we have some exciting online projects which are a bit different than most. A secret for now…