Twice every year, we hold a book fair in the B1 Atrium of FORUM The Shopping Mall, in the open space several floors below our own shop. While it might all be the same mall, the customers that we get at the book fair are sometimes shocked to hear that we’re actually from the bookshop upstairs, having never realised that there was a bookshop upstairs, much less that we have been there for 3 years and more or even that we had taken over the space from a bookshop that today is no more.
‘What makes the book fair different from the shop?’ Well, sometimes we hold special promotions at the book fair. (This September fair, we have 10% off for 2 or more Dr. Seuss paperbacks!) Sometimes, we have performances or author visits or readings. Most often of all, we try out new books and titles that we don’t have in Books Ahoy! on level 2, and we have a chance to see how they perform in the high traffic area on B1 before we consider bringing them into the shop.
When we run the book fair, we usually stretch out the fair over two weekends. That means that in effect, we actually run three separate shops and we need the manpower to run them all simultaneously! For our tiny team, this means we all take very great care to stay healthy and stretch our working hours to the max.
Prepping for the book fair actually begins long before the fair itself. In the month before the fair, cartons and cartons of carefully chosen books come to the shop, and in-between busy periods at the shop we check the books, tag them, and pack them carefully back into their boxes. (If Books Ahoy! sometimes looks like its suffering from an excess of cardboard, this is might just be why.) We start early so that we’re not frantically tagging books in the week leading up to the fair itself. Sometimes we bring in extra hands to help out in that week, if we seem like we’re lagging behind. As we usually begin the fair on Fridays, everything must be done and ready to go by Thursday night.
Between the hours of Thursday evening and Friday morning, we need to have all the books arranged by category and displayed beautifully for Friday shoppers to peruse. When most people in the mall have gone home and all the shops are closed, we tape down grey carpets and arrange white-robed tables into displays that carry the books we’ve worked on for the past few weeks. Up go the non-fiction Usborne stacks, the young reader arrays, the fanned out selection of activity books. The books on offer, clustered around the island of tables where the cash till awaits, are put out as enticingly as possible.
It takes time to make sure everything is in proper ship shape and all the emptied boxes are packed away. Sometimes we stay as late as 11 at night to have the books ready!
And then it’s Friday morning and we’re ready to welcome our first customers of the fair!
The Books Ahoy! Book Fair is currently on until Sunday, 15 September 2019!