Local bookshop to open click-and-collect service in Portobello

An independent bookshop in Edinburgh has announced plans to run a click-and-collect service until given the go-ahead to reopen.

The owners of The Portobello Bookshop said the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on business, but after weeks of hard work and planning, the popular store has set up a new online order system.

“We worked hard in the first weeks of lockdown to develop an online shop,” owner Jack Clark told the Evening News.

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“This took quite a bit of effort as we'd never planned to be a primarily online bookshop, and even now there's a lot of work involved adding books to the website, which is all done manually.

Jack Clark, owner of the Portobello Bookshop.Jack Clark, owner of the Portobello Bookshop.
Jack Clark, owner of the Portobello Bookshop.

“We're working on this in the background all the time between the processing of customer orders, and are using this as an opportunity to improve the online side of things as much as we can whilst we have the opportunity to do so.”

Like many local businesses, The Portobello Bookshop has been battered by months of closure, but with lockdown restrictions slowly starting to ease, they can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“The coronavirus has had a huge impact on us, as it has on many retailers,” says Jack. “Due to regulations surrounding furloughed staff, and our need to receive help from the government in paying their wages whilst we had no income for two months, we had to be relatively quiet.

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“We weren't able to sell books, and couldn't post much on social media or go ahead with plans we were putting in place to do online events and charitable outreach for an extended period when we were not able to trade at all.

Portobello Bookshop has become a firm favourite with locals.Portobello Bookshop has become a firm favourite with locals.
Portobello Bookshop has become a firm favourite with locals.

“Now we're slowly building things back up by opening an online shop, but with supply lines affected and our turnover being much lower than when we were open as a physical shop, there's only two of us out of a team of eight working currently and it can be a push to keep on top of everything.

“But we're doing our best and looking forward to being able to run a click and collect service in the not too distant future, and it will be lovely to see our customers' faces again.”

The Portobello Bookshop opened last July, and coronavirus aside, they have enjoyed a fantastic year.

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“We've had such a lovely, warm and positive response from our local community and it's been wonderful getting to know our regular customers and followers,” says Jack.

“Events were always going to be a big part of what we do, and it's been great to see so many people turn out for each of these, and to be able to provide a unique experience on our local high street.

“We have so many great stories from our first few months, from visits by some of our favourite authors, to cakes our customers have baked us, to a marriage proposal which happened in our shop shortly before lockdown and was possibly the nicest thing that's happened since we opened our doors.”

When the bookstore eventually reopens its doors, various safety measures will be in place.

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“We're going to make sure our shop is as safe as possible,” says Jack. “This will include distancing signs around the interior of the shop, a shield for our till area, and of course hand sanitiser always available.

“The interior of our shop was always designed for easy access and navigation and the flow of it from left to right will allow us to hopefully ensure people can move around safely and browse easily.”

Despite lockdown, the Booksellers Association (BA) has confirmed that Independent Bookshop Week will go ahead as planned from 20th to 27th June – and The Portobello Bookshop have plans to mark the event.

“Independent Bookshop Week is a wonderful thing and we're pleased that it will be possible for us to do something for it with the lockdown having been lifted a little,” explains Jack.

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“We've got local author and illustrator Emily MacKenzie popping in to the shop to do an inspiring window featuring characters from her latest book Beware Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter, a book all about books, reading and the love of literature.

“She'll also be doing an online event, most likely streamed via our Instagram, which both children and adults are welcome to join.”

For more information, visit The Portobello Bookshop here.

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