Haggerston's Burley Fisher Books flourishes during year of Covid
- Credit: Holly Chant
Crowned London’s best independent bookshop of the year, Burley Fisher Books has flourished by setting up an innovative book delivery service during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sam Fisher and Jason Burley set up the Haggerston shop as an events community bookshop in 2016.
The business did not have an online shop when the pandemic struck a year ago, or even a proper website.
“We weren’t at the best starting point at the beginning of the pandemic,” owner and bookseller Sam said.
But, he says, over 12 months there has been a “total transformation of what we do”.
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The bookseller said the first four months of 2020 were “terrible” because the shop did not have a system set up to sell books online, and was down 40 per cent in profits for the first quarter.
However, by the end of December it had experienced its best year ever.
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Before the first lockdown commenced on March 23, 2020, Burley Fisher Books tweeted to people starting to self-isolate and asked if they wanted a recommendation based on their last favourite read, delivered straight to their door.
The service, he says, gave the bookshop a boost and some time to build a new website.
They “spun” the Twitter recommendation idea into a Guest Bookseller feature and also started a podcast called the Isolation Station to highlight local and first time authors.
Sam explained: “That was really fun and it gave us a way of staying in touch with one another."
The bookshop also renovated its event space in order to sell second-hand books collected from house clearances to prepare for the planned reopening of non-essential shops on April 12 and, as the shop’s e-commerce developed, they started hosting digital events like book launches and panels on YouTube.
Sam says it has been difficult but fun to try things out and is excited to see what they carry through into the future.
Looking back on the year, he added: “It feels like it's gone by in a flash and also, It's kind of that strange train travelling at 100 miles an hour and never leaving the station type feeling.”
The bookseller thanked the community for supporting the shop when “they could have ordered from Amazon” and said winning the British Book Award for London Independent Bookshop of the Year this month was a testament to how hard everyone at Burley Fisher Books has worked.