Cart

A Bookselling Masterclass

A few weeks ago Rosamund de la Hay, ex-publisher and owner of the award-winning bookshop The Mainstreet Trading Company, came in to Hot Key HQ to talk to us about her decision to leave the publishing house she had worked at and set up her own independent bookshop in St Boswell’s, a large village in the Borders. She is a wonderful, relaxed speaker with acres worth of experience in the book world, and her talk engaged us all as she explained to us the process of running a successful independent bookshop in a pretty tough climate.

The Mainstreet Trading Company

The Mainstreet Trading Company

t’s stating the obvious to say us Hot Keyers are all fans of bookshops, but The Mainstreet Trading Company must be one of the most gorgeous (and that’s just from photos … I haven’t been yet but I’m desperate to). Rosamund and her husband Bill opened it in 2008, renovating a former auction house to create a true destination shop, which incorporates a bookshop, homeware shop, café and delicatessen (books and food! The two best things in the world. Now you’re desperate to go too, aren’t you? Thought so.)

The bookshop

The bookshop

The deli

The deli

What was particularly interesting about Rosamund’s talk was the emphasis she put on the importance of doing something different and going the extra mile and it was clear from everything Rosamund said that this philosophy is at the heart of The Mainstreet Trading Company.

The signature hare!

The signature hare!

It infiltrates everything from their logo and branding (a hare personalised to each department – café, bookshop, deli, homeware – now on mugs and notebooks too!), to their stunning window displays, and types of events they put on – Paella and a Pint, where you could buy Spanish cookbooks and paella ingredients, gigs from the Bookshop Band, and seriously brilliant, big author names.

Paella and a Pint

Paella and a Pint

They’ve also teamed up with most of the independent bookshops in the Borders, making the most of the strong local tourism links come up with the Borders Book Trail, a beautiful hand drawn map suggesting a tour of the bookshops, handed out in local shops, hotels and B & Bs. While Rosamund pointed out that creating and taking part in something like this raised the profile of her direct competitors too she emphasised that the end result was beneficial to all of them – for the greater good of the area, independent businesses and, of course, books!

Borders Book Trail

Borders Book Trail

My favourite ‘added extra’ that Mainstreet have implemented is the adorable, ingenious book burrows! What were once empty cupboards under staircases have now become Mrs Rabbit’s burrow and Mr Fox’s lair – one even has a hidden Borrowers’ house in it! I will live in one. Seriously. (Check out this brilliant blog post they did on the making of their burrows).

THE BOOK BURROWS!

THE BOOK BURROWS!

And in action ...

And in action …

In going the extra, extra mile and doing lots of different things, Mainstreet are certainly catering and caring for their customers spectacularly – in fact they’re pre-empting their customers by providing services that their customers probably haven’t realised they wanted or needed. This was particularly inspiring to us Hot Key lot as it is a philosophy close to Hot Key’s heart and one which we hope to expand on.

Rosamund’s attitude and outlook that was inspiring when she was talking about getting publicity and coverage for the shop. She stressed how important it was to be honest and realistic with yourself about what you can expect to get, but also always ambitious. As she said, if you don’t ask you can’t expect to get anything and it’s important to see yourself as worthy of coverage. I reckon I’m not the only one who thinks this advice should be applied very broadly indeed. A bookselling masterclass, yes. Maybe some life lessons too …

Follow The Mainstreet Trading Company on Twitter: @mainstreethare or check out their website www.mainstreetbooks.co.uk