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September 29, 2022

A New Chapter for Lowell Book Company

Kristen McDonie’s independent bookstore, Lowell Book Company celebrated its first year in business at Mill No. 5 this past September and she was given the greatest gift possible: a bigger, brighter space to accommodate an ever-expanding collection of books and customers who are choosing to support local.   
For Kristen as a new entrepreneur, it has been a year of trial and error with learning the trends in the book world and trends for her customers in the greater Lowell area. Knowing what she knows now, she feels prepared for the upcoming Holiday gift giving season and beyond.
 
Opening last year in a small space allowed her the flexibility to grow slowly and play with inventory and to learn how to design the space, but it had its drawbacks too. The little shop could only hold a few people at a time and especially with Covid, customers didn’t want to invade others’ space. She knows that there were missed opportunities to interact with customers and missed sales opportunities. Having a bigger space allows for some big changes too.
 
Not only does a larger shop allow for a larger selection of books, but it also makes the customer experience better with more room to move around within the space. The shop is also now flooded with welcoming natural sunlight from the almost floor to ceiling windows. The new space allows her to highlight the inventory a bit differently than before with a section dedicated for local authors and new releases are featured on a large central table where customers can browse at their leisure. The fiction and nonfiction and children’s section are all bigger as well.
 
“One thing that is different in the new space is that new and used books are mixed together and the store is only organized by genre now. That allows for people who maybe know what kind of book they’re looking for. decide ‘do I want new, or do I want used?’ Because there is a lot of people who come in looking for one kind of book and see something else that they like.” She is also able to offer more gifts that pair well with books such as art prints, tote bags and notebooks.
 
This new space will allow for more flexibility when hosting events as well. Previously any readings, Q & A sessions or book signings would be held in other sections of Mill No. 5. Those events can now be held within the shop and she is hoping she can find a balance of what the customers want and what she can realistically do inside the space. She is thinking creatively for future programs which may include collaborations with other small businesses who share a similar mission of supporting the community, renting out the space for private functions and hosting more local authors.
 
The trends that she sees currently in the book world are trending authors and specific book recommendations or book hype over social media and classic books reimagined as graphic novels. Some books can also lay quiet for a little while until a new adaptation emerges such as a movie or streaming video. Keeping up with those trends means that she has book selections available when customers come in to express their interest in a tactile item from something that they learned about digitally. She feels that this renewed interest in paper books has come from a sort of screen fatigue with students required to be learning online for an extended period of time and adults who generally want a reprieve from screens.
 
The appeal for audio books continues to increase and now there are alternatives for this and shopping for books online with platforms such as Libro FM and bookshop.org that support local independent bookstores and give them a fighting chance in the digital world. But with her recent expansion, the Lowell Book Company proves that the in-store shopping experience is still a popular trend in Lowell.

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