Forest Hill children's bookshop opens to 'exceptional response'

Forest Hill children's bookshop opens to 'exceptional response'

A new children’s bookshop SmallPrint Books has opened in London's Forest Hill and took £2,300 on its opening day.

Owner Jenny Thomas was surprised by the “exceptional response” from the local community when she opened the new shop on the site of a former beauty salon, earlier this month.

Her online bookstore, SmallPrint, has been running since 2015, and focuses on “curated” titles rather than standard titles, inspired by finding books for her two young children.

When she visited the former beauty salon in the summer, she decided it would be a suitable venue to expand her online offering. The mother-of-two, who also lives in Forest Hill, said she felt “there was a lack of local offering for families in the area” with no bookshop in the immediate vicinity.  

She said: “I took a chance and took a small bank loan and then it was two months between seeing the space and it opening up. It was a beauty salon with lots of little rooms which I knocked through. We are sandwiched between a garage and a space which will be used for soft play, a few doors down from a nursery.”

The opening day response was “exceptional” Thomas said, with around 300 visitors and takings of around £2,300 following a 10% off promotion. She said: “It was much more than I expected to take – normally my online business made around £3,500 each month and when I worked on markets I would make around £700.”

Thomas has filled the 795sq ft venue with 300 books for children although she revealed that many of her customers "don’t have children but collected the books because they love children’s books so much”.

Plans for the future include partnering with a local storyteller to run immersive sessions in the shop and expanding her ‘books on prescription’ service which features a specially chosen title sent to the recipient each month. There will also be visits from authors from November onwards and she wants to support local writers and self-published authors as well as building her e-newsletter which has around 90 subscribers so far. Thomas also plans to rent the space out for evening events including hypnobirthing sessions.

Some of her favourite publishers include Frances Lincoln, ABB and Chronicle, Book Island and Flying Eye as well as Big Picture Press and Tate. Thomas said: “I don’t tend to buy from the big publishing houses because I think those books are more widely available elsewhere.”

The former PR professional feels that children’s bookshops are important for encouraging the new generations of readers. She said: “I’ve tried to make the stock forward-facing so that children can choose the books themselves. Children’s bookshops can be really vibrant spaces.”

The shop is currently open from 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Wednesday and from 1pm to 6pm Thursday as well as 10am to 5pm on Saturday. For more information, visit the Small Print website.