Lessons from a Berlin bookshop

For Mark Kiessling of Berlin bookshop and magazine store Do you read me?!, the crisis has been an experiment in growing e-commerce.
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‘Our store isn’t big, but we have lots of magazines, books and people – normally. We closed on 16th March to avoid putting our staff or customers in danger, and we reopened after a month.

Now only three people can enter at the same time and everyone has to wear a face mask. Some people don’t believe in this or think they won’t get ill, so you have to talk with customers if they’re not wearing one. People are learning that this is a new kind of normal, so behaviours are becoming more like routines. We still had pick-up orders when we shut, so if somebody ordered a book online or called us, we handed it out at the store. We also communicated more than ever via Instagram, which helped to bring in business. We managed around 10-15% of our normal sales during this time.

Our online sales are doing better because we’ve pushed it quite a lot, but it’s much more work. All the shipping, finding the right price, packaging, things getting lost, people not being at home and dealing with shipping companies. We had lots of trouble and going forward we need to change how we set up our e-commerce. It’s just not comparable to buying in the store. Even if you’re open for only 3-5 hours a day, we’ll have more turnover than what we have online. I believe magazines and books are best bought when you hold them in your hands, when you feel the paper, weight and printing quality. Sitting in a store and talking to people – it’s just more of a direct relationship than sitting in front of a computer.’

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