Ohh Deer Interviews The Edge of the World Bookshop

Welcome to another instalment of Ohh Deer Interviews.

For our first post of 2024, we grabbed a cuppa and spoke to James from The Edge of the World Bookshop - an independent and award-winning bookshop located in the picturesque town of Penzance, Cornwall. They have been Ohh Deer customers for over 4 years!

We thoroughly enjoyed learning more about The Edge of the World Bookshop and chatted greeting cards, (some of) the secrets behind running a successful book store, buying online, and of course, favourite books.

  • You run a very cool and award-winning bookshop in Penzance. Can you introduce us to The Edge of the World?

Of course! My wife and I decided to run away to the seaside 11 years ago. Everyone said that we were mad and the shop would never work. We worked really, really hard at it and here we are 11 years later!

We’ve got a really good team and we have put a lot of love and pride into the shop. It’s quite a large store for an independent bookshop, with a really beautiful Victorian frontage. We have a big greeting card section at the front of the shop that everyone says is the best selection in Penzance. We’re very proud of it and of stocking Ohh Deer. 


  • What does a day in the life at EOTW bookshop look like?

We’re open 9-5:30, and usually, someone is in an hour before then. It really depends on the time of year, as I would say that 50% of our customers are local, regular customers. This means we like to have very fast-changing stock on the shop floor. There are lots of people coming in for specific customer orders. Then, the other 50% of our customer base are tourists. We need both to keep the shop going. 

Throughout the day we’re receiving deliveries, serving people, and giving people all the love and attention they need. We like to recommend books to them and then we’re able to order stock in. Really, we’re all enthusiasts who enjoy our jobs and chatting with customers. We also sometimes work into the evening and hold events; I’d say that is a typical day!


  • Do you have a favourite book? If that’s like asking a parent to name their favourite child, how about a book that’s helped you run your business better?

I am not sure that there’s anything that has helped us run our business better. 

We read so much and there are so many titles coming out all the time, but I’d say we’ve all got our favourites. I have one favourite that I re-read every couple of years which is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.


  • You have been an Ohh Deer customer for four years. What is it about our cards that keeps you coming back?

Really cool, funky designs with a very wide range. They’re good humour, very high quality, and have great artist images. 

I also really love the fact that they don’t come wrapped in plastic, as we’re a plastic-free town in Penzance as much as we can be. In fact, our business was named one of the plastic-free champions of the town, so that is an important aspect for us. And you know, I think the bottom line is the customers love them, so the cards keep selling, and we keep stocking them.


  • How do you pick what kind of greeting cards to stock? 


I do pretty much all the buying, so I just go through all the images with our lovely rep Reg who has, I think, pretty much every single card in his bag. I just go through them and pick out all my favourite ones. I try to chop and change them a bit so we get slightly different ones each time. 

But yeah, the bottom line is, I just think that if I'd like to give the card to somebody, I'm sure my customers would too.


  • Congratulations on winning Best Bookshop in Cornwall for a sixth time! What are the principles/standards you hold yourselves to that have served you so well?

    We're always pushing to make the shop better, getting the best stock in, and keeping the stock moving quickly. We are all about customer service, nothing is too much trouble. So we're a very relaxed sort of unsnobby shop. 

    We never know if the next customer is going to want a certain translation of the Iliad for their PhD or if they want a book with photographs, with tractors in it or something like that. So we cater for all different sorts of needs. 

    There's no snobbery. We're always very friendly to all of our customers. And yeah, we just try and make the shop a very welcoming, inviting place. We play some quiet music in the shop and it’s just a really nice place to browse. 

    We were lucky as when we moved into this unit, it was completely derelict so we fitted it out exactly how we wanted. All the lighting and displays are very nice, it’s just keeping on top of it all the time, the lighting is done professionally by hand, so you can just see there’s a lot of TLC going into the shop when you look at it from the outside.


    • Hearing your dedication to providing a diverse and welcoming environment, it's clear how much of your heart and soul goes into running The Edge of the World Bookshop. Speaking of in-store experience. What’s your favourite way to display greeting cards in your bookstore?

    We have all our greeting cards right by the door, so it’s the first thing that people see when they come in. We have cards and stationery on two large wall displays, and we have a spinner, plus a nice table for stationery at the front of the shop. We were at pains when we set out the shop not to get too overcrowded with spinners and everything, and make sure there was plenty of room for people to walk around and browse. That’s one of the key things. So, yeah, there’s quite a lot of square meterage of flat walls. 


    • We see your online shop is powered by Bookshop.org. How did you come to collaborate?

    Well, it was a bit of a no-brainer really because bookshop.org as you probably know started in the US as an alternative to Amazon for indie bookshops.

    The person who set it up was jumping in on indie bookshops in the States and he’s been gradually moving to different countries, and when we started in the UK, it coincided with COVID and us being forced to shut down, so it was the perfect time to sell stock online. 

    Basically, from an indie bookseller's point-of-view, it’s a very slick and easy way to update your own page on the site. All the books go straight from our wholesaler, with daily deliveries to the shop, and to customers. 

    We’ve got so many customers who come on holiday to Penzance once or twice a year and they might not have a local indie shop where they are, so they can buy books from us year-round rather than just once a year, so we generate a lot of extra income. 


    • We sell to many bookshops around the world and I'm sure your words will encourage others to investigate Bookshop.org. Your fluidity, encompassed by how well you pivoted during the pandemic is admirable, and it highlights your resilience and commitment to serving EOTW community as well as keeping the lights on! Now, outside of books do you have a favourite Ohh Deer product? Or is there an outlier in terms of the product that sells the best? 

      I wouldn’t say that there’s a particular one. We like to split our display by company, and we find that Ohh Deer cards work really well, as they all look fantastic and there are enough images to fill a decent amount of space, so it makes an impact on the customer when they walk in and see them. 


      • Final question. If you weren’t running EOTW, what do you think you’d be doing?

        That is a tricky question. I have done so many jobs over the years. I’ve worked in bookshops, I’ve worked as an artist, a welder, a postman, cabinet maker so ultimately, I will do whatever I need to do to earn money. I enjoy running my own business, so I would probably be running another business - possibly a different type of shop, maybe some sort of craft.

        Want to find out more about The Edge of the World Bookshop? Head over to their website here


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