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Catching Lives Bookshop: A Lockdown Update


Courtesy of lockdowns 1, 2 and 3, our bookshop has mostly been closed since March 2020, but our wonderful, dedicated team of volunteers have ensured we are still generating income to help our charity support the homeless throughout the Covid crisis. The shop did manage to re-open for three weeks in mid-October and for two weeks in early December, with a small core of volunteers willing to take on a shift when we were open Thursday morning to Monday lunchtime. A huge amount of  hard work went into making the shop Covid-safe; Sarah started the process by producing a very thorough Risk Assessment and then Janey, Julie and others gave the whole shop an intensive deep clean. With everything in place and, with Janey’s new eye-catching display, the shop took over £200 on its opening day!

For safety reasons, staff did not handle coinage and took only contactless card payments. Where customers could not do this, they just put the money in our donation box. One volunteer would sit behind the counter and the other would remain by the door – which remained open whenever possible – to welcome customers and to check the number in the shop at any one time, ensuring social distancing. On the weekdays when the shop was closed, volunteers would go in (separately) to sort and price stock, and to clean – and Janey of course would refresh the window display.

During the first lockdown Catching Lives Open Centre had received a massive pile of donations.  These had to first be transported back to the shop, over a number of dusty car journeys and then thoroughly sorted through. The books deemed unsaleable – i.e. not in excellent condition or duplicated several times – were passed on to another charity, Books for Africa, so nothing went to waste. Shop sales figures when the shop was open, were as good as in 2019, particularly during the October half-term and in December with the excellent Christmas display tempting people inside.

The shop is of course, currently closed, but you can find a collection of around 300 unique books on our Catching Lives Bookshop ebay page. As volunteer, Alan says: ‘It’s an esoteric/eclectic catalogue with several genres of books – a veritable Treasure Trove!’

To visit the Catching Lives ebay shop click here

Ebay sales have been our main source of income during lockdown thanks to the tireless work of our EBay team led by Peter and assisted by Sue, who explains here how it has all been working:

Any books, CDs and DVDs donated to the bookshop which look as if they might be valuable are put in the eBay box. It could be that they are rare, antiquarian, a first edition, signed by the author, on a specialist subject, or just unusual in some way. A small team of valuers check them and those that are worth more than £10 are listed for inclusion on our eBay web page. The rest are priced and sold in the shop. The books destined for eBay are meticulously described, photographed and shelved safely in the attic. After a double check of the value, the details are uploaded to eBay and we wait for the orders to roll in! Most of the books are sold on a “buy now” basis but sometimes we put them up for auction – usually if we expect a lot of interest or if the valuation was particularly difficult. Once a book has been ordered and paid or, it is sent off as quickly as possible. Careful packaging is important as books can easily get damaged in the post. Customers post feedback on our web page and so far we have 100% positive comments – and of course this encourages others to buy from us. In 2019 the shops ebay income averaged £400 per month, and in 2020 sales have done just as well, with July netting over £1000! Most sales are between £10 and £20 but every now and then we hit the jackpot with a sale of £100 or so. Best ever was the sale of three antiquarian Sherlock Holmes novels which went for £740. The most valuable book sold in lockdown was “Tejidos Milenarios del Peru: Ancient Peruvian Textiles” which went for £150. The day it was sold, another customer contacted us to ask if  we had another copy! Sadly, we didn’t.’

Our volunteers are all looking forward to a time when they can come back and welcome customers back into the shop but until then they are encouraging everyone to visit our ebay shop via the link above. As of this week (commencing 1st February) you can buy books on a whole range of subjects from £10 up to £250 for a copy of “Picasso: Mediterranean Years (1945-1961)” by John Richardson.

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