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Bookishly Highs and Lows. Small business review. Year in book selling. Book lovers, bookworm, readers, bibliophiles.

2023 Business Reflection - Highs and Lows✨

I’ve been inspired by the very brilliant Paper + Word and some other small business owners that we follow to try sharing a ‘warts and all’ review of Bookishly’s 2023. I know I love following the journeys of other small businesses, and sometimes people’s highlight reels can make me think that no-one else has struggles in the same way we do - when of course that’s not true! So here’s some of the highlights (and otherwise) of last year. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, there were some pretty awesome happenings and some tough ones too. 

HIGHS

  • We’re now stocked on Gardners, so every bookshop in the UK can order our mugs, totes and postcards when they place their book orders. We also attended the Gardners trade show event and met dozens and dozens of indie booksellers in person. It was amazing!
  • We’ve submitted the final files for our reading journal that is being published by ACTUAL PENGUIN. Jess and Gemma worked so hard to get it finished and the team at Penguin Random House have been so wonderful helping us get across the finish line. It’s now in their hands and I hope to have more news for you in 2024. 
  • We’ve worked with Wordsworth Classics on a whole bunch of their new book cover designs, including ALL the Dickens covers! 
  • Other collaborations in the last year include…Black & Beech, Audrey, Skull and Cross Buns, Lovetree Design, Royal Shakespeare Company, Penguin Random House - Vintage, Orion Publishing…and more are planned this year!
  • The number of indie bookstores that now stock our products has soared, and being part of that community has been wonderful. 

 

LOWS

  • Not too far into the year we had to lose a member of staff. It’s always horrible to have to make redundancies but for the survival of the business I knew it was the right thing to do. As a result we had to rebalance some tasks within the team and it’s not always been easy to get things right. We’ve had to re-asses things a few times and it’s put us to the test! 
  • Our Etsy shop was shut for the whole of November. I’m not allowed to explain why, even though I’d really like to (although I can say it’s not Etsy that’s keeping me quiet) but suffice to say that was a very stressful time. There were lots of tears and huge amounts of frustration especially when it looked like we were going to get it back open just at the end of November but it didn’t quite happen in time for Black Friday Weekend. We lost SO much revenue and being out of the algorithm meant our December was slow too. It’s the sort of thing that could be critical for us, but I’m hopeful that the rest of our Christmas trade is enough to keep us going. 
  • Our direct to customer sales have taken an overall dip, but our wholesale sales have increased. So while the increase in indie bookshops and gift boutiques buying from us is a real win and definitely belongs on the list of positives, the difference in profit margin means a significant shift in how we work and manage things behind the scenes. That hasn’t been easy.
  • We retired the Bookishly Classic Book Crate. As much as we loved the product, it just never took off enough to be sustainable. 
  • The impact of Brexit on our sales has really come to light this year. Our EU customers have to pay extra taxes and understandably don’t enjoy that! Customs rules (especially to Ireland) seem to shift all the time and the work it takes to try and figure it all out over and over again is infuriating and inefficient. 

 

BEST-SELLING

Four out of five of the bestselling products on our website last year were subscriptions! Coffee and Book Club, Classics Revisited, Classic of the Month Club and Tea and Book Club are all up there along with our random bookmark bundle. Our new subscription - Modern Classics - is right up there in the top ten since it launched in the autumn. 

To our wholesale customers, the ‘Blind Date With a Book’ range, the fictional travel posters, ‘Read Banned Books’ and ‘Amazon Sucks’ dominated the top of the bestseller lists.

REVIEW

We hope this transparency is insightful for our community, and also a comfort to other small businesses. We have lots of new exciting projects for 2024 and wish ourselves and others nothing but success and happiness.

 

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