The tills are alive

<p>&quot;The tills are alive with the sound of Christmas&quot; was the opening song of my youngest son's school play this year, and at the end of November I was doubtful that this would be true. The credit freeze and Northern Rock's collapse seemed to put the breaks on Santa's sleigh.</p>
<p>Thankfully, December has come good and the school play went off without too many hitches or tantrums. Part of the November gloom was fuelled by the traditional profit warnings from all the big retailers. This warning has become a staple of the bookseller's Christmas ritual.</p>
<p>We are told the Christmas bonanza for retailers is coming later and later, so a bookseller needs to add patience to the top of their list of skills. You have to be patient in November as your shop is heaving with stock and deficient in footfall. You then have to be patient as a high street retailer when for the third time in a day a customer walks in and says: &quot; I have been let down by my internet bookshop so can you get this book for me?&quot; Hard as it is, we recognise that each customer has the potential to become a regular source of revenue. Christmas is an opportunity to impress visitors&mdash;some may never visit us again&mdash;but others might enjoy the atmosphere of our shop and caf&eacute; and learn that independent bookshops can be a lifestyle choice, a place to meet friends, and recharge your cultural and social batteries.</p>
<p>This Christmas it has been easier to impress new customers because we have had increased support from publishers. Alan Bennett is the jewel in our Christmas fairy's crown as his signed copies of <i>Uncommon Reader</i> whizzed out of the shop. Lots of publishers seem to have woken up to independents as a source of selling books. The wholesalers have provided a generally excellent service leaving us the opportunity to concentrate on our customers.</p>
<p>Our author events in November and December might well have proved an exhausting distraction. But they raised our profile and guaranteed that we were in the local press for free over this essential trading period.</p>
<p>Patience is required again in the quiet months when we are open on Sundays as we know this is laying the foundations for really pleasing figures for Sundays in November and December.</p>
<p>December is the time to decide whether you really enjoy bookselling or not. It really is a genuine pleasure to help people buy the right gifts for their loved ones. But please is there anyone out there who can give me the perfect bookseller's response to those disgruntled Amazon customers?</p>