Indie View: Niche Comics

Adam, Guy and Angela Makey
Opinion - Bookselling Monday, 15th November 2021

'Covid has been been tough and hard work, but we have fallen in love with our bookshop all over again'

We are a family-run independent bookshop, run by Adam and Guy Makey and mum Angela. Adam was 24 and Guy 21 when the shop opened in 2011 - we thought we were mad opening in a recession, and 10 years later we realise how fortunate we have been in staying in the black. Back then we had no idea that we would face an even more challenging period.

The bookshop started with comics and graphic novels as well as mini figure painting kits by Games Workshop. What we sell has increased over the years and now includes a wide range of books, comics and tabletop games. The two rooms upstairs include a large selection of board books and books for older children. Batman and Spiderman continue to be popular, as well as manga, signed books and new titles. Our most popular titles are our books for children and the ones from our face-out stands, which change weekly.

The building dates from 1573 and has many original features, adding to the 'niche' part of the name. So I suppose having survived witch-hunts, wars, pandemics and depressions, at least our shop is robust.

It is clear that our bookshop would have been in a more challenging situation during the Covid lockdown if it hadn't been for the support from the Booksellers Association and weekly catch ups with other independent bookshops. After the initial shock and disruption of routine, we set up an online shop, redecorated, installed better lighting and created some face-out displays so books were easier to see. This proved useful too for photographing products for social media. The online platforms and were a big help financially, and continue to generate good income for the shop from customers across the UK, many new to the shop as well as friends and relatives of existing customers. We have noticed that the same customers will buy in the shop and with us online. 

The shutdown gave us a chance to review job roles and have a good sort out of the stock. All our systems are online so we can manage them anywhere. The fun bit was the home deliveries - we got to know our customers very well from their front gardens! The new protective screen has proved a big hit in building staff confidence and better defining the staff/customer spaces. We introduced a card reader near the front door and a collection table as well as a new customer orders work space upstairs which will continue to be used. It's been tough and hard work, but we have fallen in love with our bookshop all over again.

Our shop window on the high street became a vital sales tool during lockdown as more people worked from home and discovered the bookshop on their daily walks. We changed the theme and stock in the window weekly, and used Booksellers Association resources to promote Books Are My Bag, National Bookshop Day and Independent Bookshop week. 

The change that we hope remains is the greater bond between independent businesses in Huntingdon. Guy is a trustee at the Commemoration Hall, where we now hold all our events, and we work closely with other shops for campaigns including the month-long Huntingdonshire History Festival. Huntingdon held a month-long Arts Alive festival in August, and events are continuing throughout the  year, with a full programme for 2022. We run the Literary Arts and Poetry workshops with support from writers and publishers.

Our fortnightly Acoustic Nights are popular, and we are so glad to have live music again. We are already planning further music and literary events for 2022, as well as a BIG Huntingdon Geek Out day in August 2022. We now have our Christmas window sorted and are finding that present shopping is happening early this year.

Here's to another 10 years!

Niche Comics Bookshop is at 147 High Street, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE29 3TF, and its website can be found here.