Questions for: Gareth Hardy

News - Interviews Monday, 22nd November 2021

The supplier purchasing manager at Paperback Shop contributes to our Q&A series

Describe your job
I look after all of the publisher and supplier relationships for PBShop, which means liaising with suppliers' sales, distribution, IT and finance functions to ensure we have the best range of products at the best prices for our customers. 

What was your first job in the book industry?
Graduate management trainee for Students' Bookshops Ltd, which involved travelling the country learning anything and everything about running a bookshop and library supply business.
Who has been the most influential person in your career?
David Preston at Students' Bookshops showed a faith in my abilities when I was still very new to the industry, and entrusted me with a great deal of responsibility at that young age. It's fair to say without that early support and trust I wouldn't have gone on to do what I have through my career. 

How has the industry changed since your first job?
When I started in the book trade we had the Net Book Agreement, the internet didn't exist and computers were only just in their infancy in retail. We had manual stock cards and Books in Print on a micro-fiche, so I think it's fair to say the change has been seismic! 
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Currently it's the supply chain: everything from the price of paper and packaging through to fuel surcharges, driver shortages etc. I don't think we have ever as an industry faced so many demanding issues. We work with some excellent suppliers, and even the best of them are struggling at the moment. 
What's the best piece of book-related advice you've ever been given? 
Talk to and listen to booksellers - not only do they understand what customers think and want, but they are also very good at critiquing your latest bright idea, usually in words of one syllable. 
What are the most interesting things you're seeing in the industry? 
It's really interesting that the growth in reading and the purchase of physical books brought about by the pandemic show little sign of tailing off. I hesitate to say that reading is cool again, but there has been a very distinct change in people's attitude, which is heartening to witness. 

What do you think might be the next big thing?
This is a tricky one as we have seen so many "next big things" that turned out not to be, as well as unexpected real big things such as BookTok, which took the whole industry by surprise. So can I bend this question slightly and answer "What do I want to be the next big thing?", which is everyone ensuring they take the challenge of data integrity and accuracy seriously. I appreciate this isn't a very exciting topic, but it's crucial in underpinning how we need to trade in 2021. 
How are you coping with working from home? 
I'm really lucky in that, although I work from home, I go into our warehouse for a couple of days every other week. I know everyone says they have the best staff, but they are wrong - we do! The number of ideas on process improvements, efficiencies and sales growth that come up every week always amazes me, and I always come away completely re-energised. 
What is the best book you've read in the last year?
The Far Corner by Harry Pearson is the best football book I have ever read, so 20-plus years later The Farther Corner has to be the best book I have read this year. 
What are you reading now?
I am re-reading Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward. I had forgotten how inventive and also funny the book is.

How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks? 
Paper: I spend all day looking at a screen, so I don't want to do that for leisure.