The Publishing Post
A Day in the Life of a Bookseller at Christmas
This week we interviewed Molly and Amy, two Christmas elves (otherwise known as booksellers), who are working hard to help you give the gift of books this Christmas.
So how does your day usually start? What happens in the store before doors open up to customers?
Molly: Mornings consist of making sure the shop is all set up for the day: making sure everywhere is tidy and that as much stock is out as possible. As a children’s bookseller, I make sure that the children’s section is topped up and ready to go before doors open.
Amy: We usually come in an hour before the doors open and print out the slips for the online orders we received through the night. We will then go and pick the books for these orders and then reserve them. Once that's done, we usually continue with any tasks from the previous day (shelving stock, tidying up, filling any gaps in, etc.)
Okay, doors are open. Have you noticed that it’s been particularly busy this December? Or has lockdown and the pandemic meant that more people have stayed away from the store?
Molly: This is my second Christmas at Waterstones and it’s not as busy as I remember it being last year. I work in a shopping centre so I think people are more wary because of the amount of people under one roof. But as we get closer to Christmas it’s becoming increasingly busier.
Amy: So busy. Christmas week is usually the busiest week of the year but when we reopened on the 2nd of December it felt more like the 22nd!
There’s been a big push this year to order books online, has this had an impact on your daily routine?
Molly: We have had a lot of click and collect orders placed online for collection, so we spend time getting these ready and contacting customers about their orders.
Amy: In my store, we also fulfil online orders placed on our website and ship them out to people's homes. This year the numbers are much, much higher than usual. Throughout the day, there will be a handful of people picking orders straight off the shelves to be sent out.
Have you noticed any books having a surge in popularity in the run-up to Christmas?
Molly: Definitely! The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman has been flying out, as well as Barack Obama’s autobiography, and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. For children’s books, Code Name Bananas has been the most popular choice.
Amy: The Book of Hopes, The Lost Words and Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright for kids. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Lockdown by Peter May.
Any 2021 releases you’re really excited for?
Molly: I just found out about Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan which sounds like a really poetic read. Everyone is talking about Luster by Raven Leilani – I think this will be a really popular title as well. I think I’m most excited about those two.
Amy: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee are my two most anticipated.
Is there anything in your routine that is vastly different during the lead up to Christmas?
Molly: The routine itself doesn’t differ massively, our to-do lists just become a little bit longer. Customers buy more, which of course means stock needs replenishing more often. And lots more tidying!
Amy: I think because retail Christmas preparation starts late September/early October it felt like we had already put a lot of things in place before the second lockdown.
What is your favourite thing about working in a bookshop at Christmas?
Molly: My favourite thing about bookselling all-year-round is giving recommendations, so I love when customers ask about which books they should buy as gifts around Christmas.
Amy: The customers, definitely. I started as a Christmas temp and I'm reminded every year why I wanted to work in a bookshop in the first place.
Another day is done! How do you wind down after work?
Molly: Usually reading – I’m enjoying poetry at the minute – or watching a TV show!
Amy: Believe it or not – reading!
Molly: Twitter and Instagram @molly_yarwood
Amy: Twitter and Instagram @pagesofquinn