Small bookstores in Groningen flooded with orders: ‘people are rediscovering advantage of buying locally’

Source: Pexels

“Can you call me back in an hour?” Allard Steenbergen, co-owner of book store Godert Walter in Groningen, asks. “The bike courier is coming soon to pick up the orders and I can’t even describe how busy we are right now.” Small, local bookstores are profiting from initiatives to support local shopping, combined with the current backlog at large online stores.

According to Steenbergen, people are rediscovering small, local stores. “Especially now that people can’t visit shops, they realise how convenient it is to have one nearby. When someone places an order, we can often deliver it within a few hours.”

Gert Jan Riemer, co-owner of Boekhandel Riemer, notices a similar trend. “Arranging everything in-house is actually an advantage at the moment” he says. “It was easy for us to adjust to the lockdown as we already took care of deliveries ourselves.”

This means that most orders do not need to be delivered by mail. An advantage, because large internet companies like bol.com as well as postal services like PostNL are currently overwhelmed with orders, and delivery of products takes longer than usual.

“Ordering something online takes forever at the moment” Riemer says. “Delivering locally just takes a day, 2 days max, because we can cycle around the city ourselves.”

Not only does this save time, it is also a more sustainable manner of delivery.

A map on hebban.nl marks the locations of small local bookstores in the Netherlands

“We receive so many positive reactions from customers” Riemer says. “Sometimes a happy customer shares their buy with the rest of the street, and we see more orders from that area coming in a day later. This way, we are really winning back the city street by street.”

But this is not a given. “Online stores are successful because they work well” Riemer explains. “In order to compete with them we have to offer the customers something extra, a personal touch that big companies lack.”

Both book store owners are optimistic about the future of their local stores. Steenbergen says: “Now that people have rediscovered the advantages of shopping locally, we notice they are actively searching for a nearby alternative to the big online stores.”

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