Manifesto for a children’s bookshop in Wanstead

JodieMarsh profileWansteadium reader and expert in children’s publishing Jodie Marsh (not that one, this one: @Jodiemarsh31) writes:

This website community and blog have been recently discussing the problems Wanstead High Street is facing with some of the current retailers moving off to pastures new, or just not managing to survive the difficult time. So, with that in mind and as a relatively new resident (seven months) I thought I’d throw my two-pence in. It’s idealistic, perhaps, but it’s simple – Wanstead needs a children’s book shop!

Children’s bookselling is the only part of independent book retail in growth, and in comparable areas of London there are indie specialist children’s bookshops are not just surviving, but thriving: Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill; Victoria Park Books in my old stomping ground of Hackney; Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End… I work in the children’s book industry as a literary agent and I know these bookshops well. They are proper hubs of the community; running social events, high profile author events and mini literary festivals, book clubs for adults and children, they work closely with the local schools to promote reading for pleasure and are just a joy to have on the high street. In the right premises such a shop could have a cafe to give The Larder a proper competitor and as an area with a high proportion of affluent young parents it seems to me a no-brainer. If I had the capital I’d start it up tomorrow! I hope someone takes up the challenge.

16 thoughts on “Manifesto for a children’s bookshop in Wanstead”

  1. I think to say ‘give The Larder a proper competition’ is wrong. The Larder is a local business and to take away some of their income could result in it closing/failing to expand.

    If Judith’s is to go into one unit (I am sure I heard this) then maybe the Larder could expand into the one next door and have such a service?

    I was thinking about something similar earlier and The Larder has a fantastic opportunity to expand but it would need more than just extra seats.

  2. As the father of a 5 month old boy, I like the idea of a children’s bookshop but I wouldn’t want to see it come with anything else other than great books and helpful staff. Wanstead has a plethora of cafes, coffee shops and places to eat and drink and they have enough competition between them. If you’re the only children’s bookshop on a high street, why concern yourself with giving other industries competition?

  3. Has no one seen the Oxfam books/Music shop in the high street-A large variation of books at cheap prices-buying a book and the money goes to a good cause can’t be bad can it-also if you wait a few weeks Costa Coffee will be open next door-plus once you have read the book you can always donate it back and walk away with that ‘Feel Good’ factor.

  4. I don’t think it’s necessarily a “zero-sum game” when it comes to coffee shops. Another independent would make the high street more attractive to visitors and the Larder can barely cope with demand now. It may need people to stick with local indies rather than going to Costa.

    I like the Oxfam bookshop but high streets thrive on commercial enterprises, not charity shops. I was sceptical about the idea of a general bookshop but it’s interesting that Jodie says children’s bookshops are on the up. If that’s the case, I’d imagine one could co-exist with the Oxfam shop and, again, generally attract more people to the high street.

  5. As long as the disparity between the rates that charity shops are charged and the rates charged to commercial businesses remains, the sort of shop being proposed will always struggle. Yes – it would be lovely to have such a thing in Wanstead, but it will take a lot of floor space – which equals high rent, high rates and high risk for whoever is brave enough to try it.

  6. Rumour has it the Judith shop space is being let to a beauty salon… Competition is always good but not at the expense of a balanced retail offering. Would like to see Redbridge planning department more committed to preserving the integrity of the high street. There are gaps in the retail offering.

    Since the old enigma shop is changing the retail offering, doesnt this need planning permission?

    I love the Larder – my favourite place to meet friends. so an extended larder sound great but its service is slow (albeit very pleasant) it will never cope with being bigger! If I’m on a time budget I go elsewhere. But that’s the joy of having choice to do that.

  7. When I say ‘proper competition’ for The Larder I certainly don’t mean that so negatively – The Larder is busier than Starbucks and will be busier than Costa – but it can’t keep up with the demand for good quality, indie cafes in an area like this – you could have 7 and they’d all be busy at lunchtimes.
    I’ve been really impressed with the choice of charity shop on the High St and they’re very well stocked with books, but charity shops have limitations in terms of stock quality and choice, of course; they can’t so easily run events and I’m suggesting a shop that can really assert itself as part of the community by doing those kinds of things.
    Rates and rents are an issue, but they’re an issue in all those other parts of the city too – I really believe that if the residents (and, indeed, visitors) supported a bookshop – and not just browsing before buying on Am*z*n later! – it would be more than fine for the proprietor (and very good for all of us!)

  8. @Dawn..

    ANOTHER Beauty Salon!?!

    Birmingham have the ‘Curry Mile’, Wanstead is not far off having the ‘Beauty Salon Kilometer’

    Wanstead must be full of:

    1. Unattractive people who need constant beauty attention.
    2. Beautiful people who need to keep looking beautiful.
    3. Bored middle aged housewives with nothing better to do.
    4. A LOT of women.

  9. Yes ANOTHER beauty salon!

    Martin I think 2, 3 and 4 all apply to the population of Wanstead. But in wanstead there are also plenty of men seeking grooming too! Its no longer a female thing!

  10. I completely agree but also think Wanstead needs a really good toy shop. It might make it more commercially viable to combine the two. Although when the dominos controversy was on I did think the Cinnamon eatery would make a really dinky kids bookshop!

  11. I feel I am missing something…

    We have a library, something we should actually be proud of as many people will never know what a library is/was.

    Should the Library not be doing more to provide a solution? Jodie, you could even start a group with volunteers in the Library and financially it would not be an issue.

    If Redbridge or the Library fail to assist then they are failing the community.

  12. I had hoped that we could have a bookshop of any sort on the High Street. Maybe a little sideline in CDs – I do miss having the Woolworths on the High Street, but applaud Heads and Tails (aka the pet shop) for stepping intot he homewares void.

    I do go into the Oxfam shop, but the books donated aren’t neccesarily the ones I want to read. Also, you can’t exactly give gifts of a 2nd hand book…Re toy shops, I read this in the local Wanstead & Woodford Guardian about the businessman who took over the borough’s only independent toy store. Liked the bit about launching “pocket money” range of toys.

  13. Martin, of course it’s brilliant that Wanstead has a good library (and even better that it doesn’t seem to be under threat from local authority cut-backs – rare at the moment), but my post was in response to discussion about the high street and what might bring it alive. Libraries and bookshops co-exist perfectly well – if you have a veracious reader at home you might not be able to afford £20 a week on the books your child wants to devour; equally your child might like to spend their pocket money on a special hardback that they’ll keep, re-read and treasure, even if they’ve already read it from the library…or maybe that was just my 10 year-old self.

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