The Plight of the Book Seller

Published on 20th December 2005

Harun Mwau sells and markets books in one of the leading bookshops in Nairobi – Kenya. He holds an O-level certificate and is currently pursuing a Diploma in Accounting. The African Executive interacted with him; he shared some of his experiences.

Q. For how long have you been selling books?

A.  For the last six years.

Q. What time of the year do you make most sales?

A. Most sales in this particular bookshop occur during the month of December to February, and during April and August vacations.

Q. Who are your target audience?

A. Schools because they buy in retail and students.

Q. Are all books fast moving?

A. Not all books are fast moving. We even sell a copy a month for some titles.

Q. How do you meet your target?

A. By ensuring that we have all recommended titles by Kenya Institute of Education. We serve our clients without any discrimination, give discounts, provide transport services for those who buy in bulk etc

Q. What challenges do you face? 

A. Competition from other bookshops, shop lifters, mistakes in books and delay in reprinting.

Q. What advice would you give to the writers and publishers?

A. They must first consider their target audience, and ensure they use the language that suits them. Writers and publishers should advertise their new titles in the media, give free samples, make a follow up on the sale of books among others. What most of them forget is that the readers complains will help them when reprinting.

Q.    What about the buyers, what advice would you give?

A.     Buyers should not remain silent if they find any mistake. They should also research and get to know the new titles in the market.

Q.    How do you fight competition from other bookshops?

A. We make sure that every book is available so that a client does not miss a title, we offer competitive discounts that will keep the customers coming back, and ensure that we rectify the complains we get.

Q.    Am sure you have dead stock, how do you dispose it or  manage it?

A. We retain it since books are not perishable hoping that we shall sell them. At times we opt to sell them at a throw away price if we do not want to hold them for so long.

Q.    How do you identify your suppliers?

A.     We research a lot hence get to know the new titles. Some suppliers approach us and tell us about their books. In such instances we stock their books on a sale or return basis. If the book is fast moving then we order directly from the publisher.

Q.    Any other comment?

A. Yes. I have had an opportunity to work with other bookshops whose target is general readership. Apparently Sudanese frequented these bookshops more than Kenyans. This amazed me.


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