Buying the book range in a department store is a bit different to being, say, the fashion buyer in a department store. In fashion the seasons roll around, those spring/summer ranges superseding autumn/winter ranges with reassuring regularity. So the Jarrold fashion floor may look strikingly different from season to season as polka dot trench coats make way for zebra pattern swimsuits (I have to admit to writing from a position of some ignorance of the finer detail of current fashion-buying trends).
In the world of books, on the other hand, things aren’t quite as clear-cut. There are seasonal events, of course: Christmas and, to a lesser extent, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween and like celebrations each bring their own batches of related publications. But what marks the world of books out from most other retail product ranges is the sheer breadth of range of books available. And what marks it out even more starkly is the ceaseless flow of new books coming into the world and being, at least in theory, available to stock in bookshops.
Last time I looked there were about 185,000 new titles being published annually in the UK. That’s over five hundred every day. We don’t stock all of them here, of course. No bookshop could. Imagine a world in which bookshops simply ordered one of all the new titles being published and let their customers root around for the ones they wanted. The madness of that scenario is one of the reasons booksellers exist: to curate (to use the fashionable term) the range of books in stock, so customers can see the wood for the trees, the right books rather than all the books.
But what does ‘the right books’ mean in this context? It means we select, from the seemingly endless choice, the books we hope our customers will want, or be surprised and delighted by. We don’t get it right all the time, by any stretch of the imagination, but we talk to our customers, listen to what they say, observe their buying habits closely, steal ideas from competitors – in short, we create and sustain as broad a range of titles as possible, with the intention of making as many customers happy as much of the time as possible. So, in buying new books and book-related products to stock this spring and summer, we weren’t buying a spring/summer ‘collection’; we were selecting, from the thousands of new titles that were published (not to mention the several million books already in print or available in print-on-demand versions) the ones we hoped you, our customers, would want to see on the shelves at Jarrold.
Having said all I’ve said about the buying role being about selecting individual books from that huge and ceaseless flow of products I’d like to finish by highlighting three new or new-ish ranges that in some sense give the lie to what I’ve just said. All were bought as ranges rather than individual titles. None of these ranges were, strictly speaking, completely new. None of them were particularly publication date-sensitive. And, as you’ll spot, a couple of them aren’t even actually books, but – as booksellers like to call them – book-related products. Two things they have in common, though, is that as far as we’re aware they’re not stocked by any other local retailers and (we hope you’ll agree) they’re well produced and make unique gifts. One more reason to visit the Jarrold book department, we hope…
Slightly Foxed is – or used to be – a bookshop. The physical bookshop has long gone, but the online equivalent still exists. More to the point, Slightly Foxed is also a publisher, both of a very readable literary quarterly magazine and of a range of satisfyingly handsome books.
The books in question are, to quote the publisher:
A series of beautifully produced little pocket hardback reissues of classic memoirs, all of them absorbing and highly individual… perfectly designed to curl up with – neat, sturdy little hardbacks, just the right size to hold in the hand and with a ribbon marker to keep your place. More important still, they’re wonderful reads – hitherto forgotten memoirs that bring alive a particular moment, that allow you into someone else’s world and make you feel you have actually known the writer. Often these books light up a period in a way no history book can. If you’ve started collecting them already, now could be the moment to fill in any gaps. And if you haven’t – well, you’ve a treat awaiting you. So whether you’re in need of a good book or a present for someone you’re fond of, do seize the chance to stock up now.
Couldn’t have put it better myself. We’re delighted to say you can now buy both the Slightly Foxed literary quarterly and the book range here at Jarrold. To whet your appetite here are a handful of titles from the range. There’s plenty more where these came from.
‘Wooden postcards?!’ I hear you exclaim. ‘Whatever next?’ Actually, we’ve been selling wooden postcards for years. They mostly feature nostalgic tourist or railway posters of East Anglian scenes and sit neatly with the local interest books range. They’re postcard-sized and you can put a stamp on and send them through the post just like ordinary cards; or you can put them on the mantelpiece, which is what I suspect a lot of people do with these winsome objects. Recently we hit on the idea of raiding the Jarrold image archive and producing some exclusive Jarrold card designs. Here are the first three, available in store for just £3 each. If these turn out as popular as we’re hoping there will be further designs, so watch this space.
Pubstops of Norwich
For some years we’ve been selling these very popular maps of Norwich, set out in the style of the iconic London Underground map and featuring the pubs of the city. Until now, the maps have been available only in a single size and supplied in a simple polybag. Recently, though, the company supplying them has come up with some useful variations on the theme: a version of the map supplied in a triangular gift box; a smaller size version which comes mounted in a clip-art frame; and even a mug. One of these formats must surely be the perfect present for the pub-going person in your life.