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The story behind online retailer The Kids’ Bookshop

Internet Retailing chats with Graham Gill, co-founder of online retailer, The Kids’ Bookshop. The niche bookstore was founded by Graham and Kristin Gill with the belief that every child in Australia, no matter where they live, should have access to beautiful books.

Internet Retailing: When and why did you decide to launch The Kids’ Bookshop?
Graham Gill: In 2012 we decided to launch an online specialist children’s bookstore because we knew there was a gap in the market for parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians who wanted (and needed) to access children’s books from an online store without having to plough through millions of titles. We wanted to offer a destination where they could access an excellent selection of books and expert advice – just as if they were in a bricks and mortar store. It was also the perfect combination of our skills –  mine in IT and Kristin’s in children’s books and education.

IR: Who is your target market?
GG: We target parents, grandparents, teacher and librarians – anybody who has a vested interest in finding good books for the children in their lives; anybody who understands the educative value of books and who is keen to promote literacy either in their home or school.

IR: Why specialise in one niche market?
GG: It’s an important market and one the we both feel very passionate about. We have raised our own (now adult) children to be voracious readers and want that for all children and families. It is a difficult area for some people to navigate on their own, particularly online, but the fact is that online shopping is a hugely convenient way of shopping for many busy parents.

IR: What is your point of difference as an online retailer?
1) Customer service is perhaps our most significant point of difference. Our store is accessible 24/7 of course but we are also accessible by email from 8:30am – 9:30pm daily and between 9 and 5 by phone – for advice and assistance.

2) An uncluttered site that is easy to navigate and with a filtering system that is extensive enough for most customers to find something suitable for their readers without our assistance.

3) We believe we are the only store of its kind – an online children’s bookstore catering for children aged 0-18 – in the southern hemisphere.

IR: What are your challenges with technology, warehouse integration, automated picking and packing?
GG: Because we carefully curate our selection, we don’t auto-feed from an industry database which would auto-update books that are no longer available or not in stock. Inventory management is a constant challenge. Initially we had some problems with hosting but (fingers crossed) the site is stable and nimble to use.

Site maintenance and upgrading is expensive.

IR: What e-commerce technologies do you use and how do you manage your warehousing?
GG: Magento for our e-commerce – it covers our inventory, reporting, e-commerce etc.

We have a small warehouse space where we hold most popular and bestselling titles and for all other titles, we order to demand. Most publishers turn orders around in 48 hours.

IR: How many staff do you have?
GG: We employ three staff – not including Kristin and me. I work full-time in the business and Kristin works about 15 hours a week managing the marketing and social media on top of her full-time job.

IR: How has the business grown since launch?
GG: It has grown from a business that ran from two bedrooms in our home to a business with office and warehouse space. We have doubled our sales in 2016 (against 2015) and look forward to continued growth across the second half of the year.

I left full-time employment in May 2016 to work full-time in the business.

IR: What are your top priorities for the rest of 2016?
GG: Our priorities going forward are to focus on building our customer base that is schools, libraries and parents and finding opportunities for growth and development both in traditional and non-traditional book-buying sectors. We are anticipating our biggest Christmas yet!

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