Children’s author B B Taylor has opened a new children’s book and games shop in Staffordshire.
Books and Banter is based in Stapenhill, Burton upon Trent, and is a “cosy and gorgeous” 400 sq ft retail space, said Taylor, who decided to open a bookshop when she lost her income during the pandemic. “I had two jobs before lockdown: I was a writer, and the sales and events manager for a pub company,” she told The Bookseller. “My book was pushed back and author visits stopped, and I was furloughed from my pub job. But furlough payments from a zero-hours contract don’t amount to very much!”
Taylor also had to leave her home in Birmingham because the landlord wanted to sell, so she moved to Staffordshire, where there were “lots” of empty retail properties. East Staffordshire council was also offering start-up grants, so the author and her husband found a retail property in need of repair, persuading the landlord to give them a rent-free period if they sorted out the damp and electrics themselves.
The shop is spread across two levels, with upstairs being the bookshop, and Taylor specialises in championing smaller publishers that “you may not see in the big chains”. She is running three book clubs (for readers aged up to seven; five to eight; and eight to fifteen) and hosted her first book launch on 15th May, for Sinéad Murphy and Shannon Cresham’s picture book A Tiger Named Lee (Tiny Tree). She is also selling books online and reaching out to schools, libraries and home educators.
Downstairs is devoted to games and customers can buy and play Pokémon, Yu-gi-oh magic, Digimon and more inside. Taylor wanted to sell games as well as books partly because the local game shop had closed, and there was nowhere for gamers to go, and partly because her daughters were keen gamers and had qualified for the Pokémon world championships.
The best thing about opening Books and Banter was the support from the Booksellers Association and other indies, she said. “I was really nervous when I told people the bookshop was mine, because I was already in the book community [as an author] and I didn’t know what people would think. But the amount of bookshops who reached out with support and advice, like Kenilworth Books and Chicken and Frog, was lovely. It’s a really friendly community.”
The hardest part was getting stock. Suppliers wouldn’t give the shop any books to sell until the premises werer open, and it took eight weeks to set up a Gardners account, even though the team at Gardners are “lovely”, she said.