I had plans for the shop table in the run up to christmas – a series of displays of lovely books that I had collected in the previous months and all looking lovely.
My colleague, who does splendid things in the window, and I spent some time hunched together thinking what we could do to maximise sales at this most important time of the year.
I had started collecting books for months in advance – books that were unread or hardly read by their careful owners – who then donated them to us.
Quality stuff for christmas.
I had teetering towers of boxes which our ever-patient manager had to dismantle into safe groupings which no one could trip over.
Anyway, we thought we had christmas sorted.
And I launched the table with place settings of nice old cutlery, and a book on each plate as well as mounds of Oxfam chocolate coins and some candlesticks etc etc.
Standing back and feeling pleased, I was shocked when moments later a customer bought something and I had to rush round making it all look nice again.
(I had time to fiddle about because donations were slow – but more of that later.)
And so it went on.
We put stuff out – lovely books on various themes, the best bric-a-brac we had, all styled and looking great – and then they were bought.
My teetering piles of boxes of our best books dwindled – or not so much dwindled as disappeared faster than frost in the Sahara.
Now, we can’t order more books, we can only look around what we have got with an increasingly panicky feeling to see what we can muster.
We have, at the moment, a lot of military history, but good seller though it may be, its not really in the mood.
And we really hadn’t had many donations – the odd box of 1980s cookery books and atlases but nothing of any use.
Of course, along with the boxes of ‘present’ books, we do throughout the year, collect books on christmas – crafts, cookery, children’s nativity, fiction, endless copies of The Christmas Carol.
So, I decided we would make a table around stars – what with Tim Peak being from Chichester and all – and the guiding star, and even, perhaps, Star Wars.
We had, I knew, more nativity books than you could shake a donkey at – as well as Brian Cox and a lovely 1930s book called The Midnight Star which has the loveliest engravings of the night sky.
Could I find a nativity book? I could not. They had all been sold – nothing short of a miracle as usually we always have a pile leftover in January.
Still, nothing deterred, we set up this table with a few stars from the 99p Shop scattered about as props, and the books.
And as they sold in front of my very eyes, we luckily had an influx of children’s books including several with stars in their titles – and then they sold within minutes!
Anyway, stars are it until christmas eve so I am really hoping they last.
As for donations, let me tell you that the populace of Petersfield has, rather unlikely though it may sound, decided to have a good clear out of books just before christmas and yesterday we had so many donations we were stacking boxes in the shop itself.
I must admit that apart from a great collection of young children’s books, the many of the rest came out of garages into sacks.
My colleague and I spent all afternoon sorting and sorting, and sorting and sorting – and because it was the run up to christmas, having a very busy time in the shop too – I think we took more on one day than we have taken in a very, very long time, if ever.
There was one short moment when there was only one customer, a postman from the Royal Mail office next door.
He saw me putting aside some very browned books to one side and said some of them looked interesting, how much would they be?
I gave him one I knew was a good read for free and wished him happy christmas – the rest went in a sack.