Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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The Book Grocer celebrates 20th anniversary

The Book Grocer is celebrating 20 years since establishing its first store.

In a letter to staff and customers, founder Karl Slotte described opening the first of the chain’s stores in Kingston in the ACT in 2000, ‘with zero staff and 8500 books’.

Slotte said his mother ‘incredibly generously loaned me $60,000 from the sale of her home which represented my total capital input’.

‘I travelled to the UK and US where I drove across 23 states for six weeks visiting every major book wholesaler putting together a part full 20-foot container. I’m still not sure how I didn’t go broke on my shipping and travel expenses.’

‘I can still remember the excitement from that first morning when I headed down to open the store not knowing whether the concept would work and what the future would have in store for me,’ said Slotte.

‘Fortunately for me the opening day was a raging success in more ways than one. Not only did I well and truly exceed my turnover target for that day but more importantly I met my wife Jen in the store on that first day who still runs the business with me along with my brother-in-law Tony [Sidebottom].’

The chain has since opened in 125 business locations ‘and closed nearly as many’.

‘The thrill of sourcing all the books from warehouses and publishers across Australia, the UK, the US and Canada has not diminished one bit during all these years nor has the fun in experimenting with different business models,’ said Slotte. ‘We have sold books at floating prices, fixed prices, by the bag and by the box.’

Of the impact of Covid-19, Slotte said getting back in touch with customers’ reading habits through the store’s online business had been ‘one silver lining’.

‘At the start of March we had about 2,500 books listed on the website which has since grown to over 11,000 titles with thousands more still to be added,’ he said. ‘It is a real pleasure to see books getting snapped up nearly as fast as I can upload them.’

The chain’s latest store opened in Lansell Square in Bendigo in May, ‘where we are returning for the fifth time’.

‘You all know my love for the “closing down sale”,’ says Slotte.

Pictured, left to right: Tony Sidebottom, Karl Slotte, Jen Slotte



Category: Local news