Business profile: Natalia de la Ossa - manager at The London Review Bookshop

Business profile: Natalia de la Ossa - manager at The London Review Bookshop

The London Review Bookshop, opened in 2003 by the London Review of Books, has just turned 10.

It also has a new manager, Natalia de la Ossa, who joined in June after stints as manager of the children’s section in Blackwell’s Oxford and manager of Under the Greenwood Tree, an independent children’s bookshop in Clapham, south London.

Gearing up for London Review Bookshop's second decade of bookselling, de la Ossa and her team are embarking on a period of change with real investment in staff—it has just hired two new members. “We are now very well stocked when it comes to all of the mainstream titles, but for those other more unique titles, the experience and expertise of all of the staff cannot be underrated”, says de la Ossa. “We will be making changes to various sections of the shop to reflect sales: cookery will get more space and travel will get smaller. We have one of the best poetry sections already, but I would like to strengthen and grow that even more.

“We also have a small children’s section that a lot of people don’t even know we have, so I want to expand that. We’ll have new visual merchandising and I want to rearrange the basement and make it a different kind of space, somewhere people can browse, sit and read with coffee and cake. I’d love to integrate the cake shop [which opened in 2007] and bookshop even more than they are now.”

Social media

The London Review Bookshop currently has 60,000 subscribers to its fortnightly newsletter, and with the help of the magazine, its website has just been redesigned. The shop runs at least two events each week and a monthly late-night shopping evening—and the cake shop, of course, does its own bustling trade. But de la Ossa knows that the shop needs to embrace social media even more if it is to increase footfall.

“We have three tiers of customers, readers of the London Review of Books, shoppers and visitors to the cake shop—but it is that middle group we need to reach out to, and that’s what I’m hoping the new website and newsletter will do. When it comes to social media, things have changed so radically in the past few years that we need to do even more in that space.

“From next year I really want to measure footfall and build up a picture of who our customers are and when and what our busiest periods are. I want more people discovering the shop, coming in and seeing what a great space it is. Word of mouth is key to that, so I want to start approaching some local schools and universities. We also have a fantastic relationship with the British Museum and I would love to tie in events here with events there, and have a few people here afterwards to do a workshop. The museum is the main draw to this area, so it makes sense for us to strengthen that connection”.

Long-term plans

Next year de la Ossa would love to engage local students and shoppers with small lunchtime events—“a sandwich, coffee and a short talk for £5, that sort of thing”—and in 2015 her aim is a little more global: “I want to get more authors from outside Europe over for a series of events, and work with universities and publishers to bring across big literary names from Latin America or Africa, to help our visitors discover something new.”

All of this makes her optimistic for the future: “I want to work with the other bookshops in the area too—with Foyles and the Wellcome Trust—I don’t think there is any need for competition between us. Everyone talks about how hard it is for bookshops, and it is, but we’re not at that point yet. We’re not at the stage where we are all in competition with each other.”