Jo Malone urges bookshops to 'take risks'

Jo Malone urges bookshops to 'take risks'

Beauty entrepreneur Jo Malone has urged bookshops to “take risks” in order to prosper in these “strange” times.

The businesswoman, known for building beauty business Jo Malone which she left in 2006 along with new brand “Jo Loves”, was speaking at The Bookseller Association Conference at Warwick University yesterday (12th September) about her new memoir My Story out next month (Simon & Schuster).

When conference chair author and The Bookseller contributing editor Cathy Rentzenbrink asked what advice Malone had for bookshops as an entrepreneur, she said: “I think this world is going through a very strange time and what we have to do is be accountable for ourselves…We have to take risks. We can’t be afraid to do things differently. Everything I do, I want to do it differently. Hold different events, sell books in a different way, as a retailer you have got to inspire people.”

Cathy Rentzenbrink (left) talks to Jo Malone

She also encouraged businesses to try and hire at least “one more person” and said it was important to celebrate every achievement with staff.   “In my business, we have Pink Fridays where we have wine before the weekend,” she said. “We also celebrate every achievement. Whatever it is, we celebrate it. I think that is sometimes lost people once you’ve achieved something, you’re already focussed on the next thing, but it is important to celebrate what you have already achieved to give people that boost.”

Malone added that that she thought small businesses in the UK had the “Dunkirk spirit” and that this would be important in the Brexit era.“I was not in agreement with the decision, but it is important I pick up whatever happens and continue to build,” she said. “If you have any savings, you will not get a lot on your return. So I think instead we will see a huge number of small businesses being built because people want to try and take things back into their own hands.”

Malone spoke shortly before Nielsen’s Jo Henry (right), who revealed that independent bookshops were an “important” part of the print book market, accounting for 8% of the print book market in 2015 and 9% by value.

Nielsen research had also found that bookshops window displays were “more important than ever” when it came to influencing purchasing decisions, Henry said.

Statistics from the Independent Booksellers Week Fitness Programme also revealed encouraging data about the health of print book sales at indie bookshops, with total gross margin on books increasing six percentage points for participating booksellers between 2010 and 2015, now standing at 41%. Gross margin on non-book items, meanwhile, was down 2% in that time to 42% and café takings were also down 1% in that period.

Earlier in the day, the BA c.e.o Tim Godfray had detailed the trade body’s lobbying work over the past year, on issues such as business rates and the impact of online platforms, as well as Amazon’s dominance and practices.

Referring to the European Commission’s recent ruling that Apple should pay Ireland €13bn back in taxes after a three-year investigation, Godfray said: “Amazon are absolutely enormous, but following the Apple ruling, are we going to see the EU take on Amazon? I would be very surprised if we did not see this happen.”

Meanwhile, fresh details were revealed about promotion plans for this year’s Books Are My Bag campaign were revealed by BA’s head of membership services Meryl Halls. Along with launching the BAMB Readers Awards, a social media campaign will focus on #onlyonthehighstreet, a twist on the online commerce company notonthehighstreet.com.

Halls explained: “We want to let people know what they are missing when they don’t shop on the high street. They are missing that instant gratification of getting something straight away, the luxury of browsing, to find a book you never knew existed.”

The campaign will revolve around the inaugural national Bookshop Day on 8th October, announced earlier this year.