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Day I booked in to live my dream – read all about it...

Guardian reporter Gaynor Clarke gets to work and below, 
Ebb and Flo book shop owner Diane Gunning, left, with author Emma Chapman

Guardian reporter Gaynor Clarke gets to work and below, Ebb and Flo book shop owner Diane Gunning, left, with author Emma Chapman

 

I have always loved reading, ever since being a small child.

I remember borrowing piles of books from the library and reading them for hours.

My love of reading is something that’s continued and I’m always part-way through a book.

So the idea of running my own book shop and being surrounded by books all day really would be my dream job.

Someone who does just that is Diane Gunning, who opened Ebb And Flo bookshop, on Gillibrand Street, Chorley, last year.

She previously worked in education, but decided to open the shop after seeing her husband set up his own business.

She benefited from grants offered by Chorley Council to help new businesses.

Diane, who lives in Adlington, said: “I have always gone into bookshops from being little and I love any book shop. Even the book aisle in the supermarkets, I love.

“You always think it would be nice to have a book shop, but it wasn’t something I thought I would do.”

Diane, 48, agreed to let me spend some time at Ebb And Flo to find out what it takes to run a bookshop.

She started by showing me around the shop, which has shelves filled with books for children and adults, including fiction and non-fiction, science, sport, health and poetry.

Upstairs is a room used to host all sorts of events and activities, from art exhibitions to baby yoga.

It is a way for Ebb And Flo to offer more to its customers than they would get by shopping online.

The shop is quiet for now, but there is always something to be done, whether it’s putting out stock, organising events or communicating with customers via social media.

Diane said: “Sometimes it’s dead in a shop and that’s the reality of it. It depends what sort of town you are in. Some will have more footfall than others.

“Because we have only been open for a year, there are lots of new customers who have never been here before. If you are established longer, maybe it’s slightly busier.”

I started work by helping to move some new stock from around the till area to a storage room upstairs.

I then learned how to scan new books when they arrive and process them in the shop’s computer system, shown by shop assistant Wendy Gratrix.

As she continues to sort the stock, I put books out on the shelves, paying special attention to make sure I put them in the right place – it’s tougher than it looks!

Customers started to drift into the shop and Diane gets to do one of the things that most book lovers enjoy – give recommendations.

She is keen for Ebb And Flo to provide something different to the supermarkets and online, so is able to highlight different authors.

The shop starts to get quite busy, with a woman popping in to collect an order, a mum looking at children’s books with her son, and an author visiting to pick up some of his books.

What started as a routine day in the shop became more exciting when first-time author Emma Chapman dropped in.

Ebb And Flo regularly hosts visits from authors, who talk to their fans and sign books.

I helped to lay out cheese scones, cakes and fruit for Emma and her readers, as well as a display featuring her book How To Be A Good Wife.

Emma was visiting book shops around the country in a campaign to support independent sellers.

She spent time talking to a couple of people who popped in specifically to meet her, as well as customers who visited the shop.

Emma, from Wilmslow, said: “It’s been wonderful to be in shops and meet people who have read my book.

“I also feel I’m doing something to help independents. To me, they are really important and I don’t want them to go.”

When Emma leaves and the excitement dies down, it is back to normal in the shop, with customers to serve, books to put on shelves and plenty of other work to do.

It is clear that running a book shop is about much more than loving a good read – and Diane admits she has less time to read now as she’s so busy with the shop.

The rise of internet shopping in recent years, particularly from online retailer Amazon, has left its mark on the high street, especially book shops, and Diane has to work hard to entice shoppers with extras such as meeting their favourite author.

Diane believes many people in Chorley are determined to continue shopping locally, but the internet is still a threat.

She said: “Amazon has had a massive impact on the high street. It started off with books.

“If that’s what people want, then it will thrive and the high street will die.”

Despite the challenges, mother-of-two Diane admits that running Ebb And Flo is “the best job I have ever done”.

But she is keen to make it clear to me – and other people hoping to follow in her footsteps – that it isn’t always easy.

“People come in and ask for jobs because they would love to work here. They are book lovers and think it would be great to work in a book shop,” she said.

“It’s much harder than I anticipated though.”

She had some good advice for those dreaming of opening their own shop.

Diane said: “If you really want to do it, go for it, but do a lot of research beforehand. Speak to as many people as you can.

“If it’s book selling you want to do, go to as many independent book shops as you can. Do research on the internet. Some book sellers have blogs and you can get lots of information about how they were set up.”

Even after hearing about all the hard work it takes to run a business, I still can’t shake the desire to be surrounded by books all day.

And I’m sure I’m not the only bookworm who would love to do the same as Diane.

 

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