Leisure centres can sell books too, and we speak to Everyone Active’s Daniel Gillmore about the value books have added to the retail experience at Coral Reef Waterworld.

Interior of a pirate themed shop

As the regional retail manager for a network of leisure centres in the south-east of England, Daniel Gillmore never expected to be involved in selling books. Swimwear, goggles, and yoga mats were far more familiar territory.

But after a chance encounter with Bookspeed at Spring Fair, books became a serious consideration for the shelves of the gift shop at Coral Reef Waterworld in Bracknell. It was a decision that was not without some trepidation.

“We worried whether books were still popular.”

“We worried whether books were still popular. Kids all have iPads now, so we weren’t sure if they’d still want books,” says Daniel. “But the Bookspeed team persuaded us that books do still sell well and shared information about bestsellers with us. That helped us feel more confident. We visited other retailers supplied by Bookspeed and saw the potential in books for ourselves.”

Daniel was initially looking for activity books. Many of Coral Reef’s visitors drive to the water park from all over the UK, so stocking items that children could enjoy during the journey home seemed like a safe choice, alongside plush toys, branded merchandise, and familiar licensed products. The retail is a seamlessly integrated part of the customer experience at Coral Reef, so products needed to carefully complement the themes of the water park.

“We wanted to create a journey where the second you step through the entrance, it’s like stepping on to a pirate ship. Customers have an opportunity to buy aquatic products on the way to swim. On the way out, you’ll find a really great set of products that enhances that pirate-themed experience,” he says.

“We want to show each product a little bit of love when it is put on the shelf.”

The gift shop design resembles a pirate ship, and the visual merchandising is critical to creating that consistency of experience. For Daniel, it also brings a bit of magic to the retail space and helps draw people to the products.

“Our visual merchandising is really important to us. We like things to look nice. We want to show each product a little bit of love when it is put on the shelf,” he says.

“A lot of our books are front-facing, and we sometimes place them standing on top of each other to create a bit of depth. Everyone comments that the books area is the one display that stands out because there’s so much to look at. The titles just pop. I think that helps inspire people to pick a book up and take it to the till to buy it.”

Over time, as books have continued to perform well, Daniel has expanded the range. He has identified that it is important to see beyond the water park’s junior visitors and cater to those family members who might prefer to mooch around in the gift shop instead of splashing around.

Books and products on shelving

“Books are our bestsellers!”

“Books are our bestsellers! And if you had asked me what our bestsellers would be when I started a gift shop a year ago, I wouldn’t have said books. In our digital age, you don’t think that physical books would still be popular but it’s nice to see that they are,” says Daniel.

“For adults the nature and travel stuff sells well, for example Epic Bike Rides of Europe or Epic Road Trips of Europe. And for children, it’s sticker or activity books.”

Fifteen months on and ten Bookspeed orders later, books are now a staple of the Coral Reef Waterworld gift shop. Daniel and the team have plans to roll out more books in leisure centres, focusing on wellness themes to target adult gym goers.

“I now feel a lot more confident buying books and a lot more comfortable trying different styles of books too,” he says.

“We’ve started branching out and we are trialing books in some of our gyms. The sort of books we’ve been offering include cookbooks, yoga books, and meditation books – things that go hand-in-hand with a healthy lifestyle. We’re taking a 'boutiquey' approach. We’re selling books alongside yoga mats, perfectly aligned with water bottles and incense sticks. It has gone really well for us and I’m hopeful we’ll see more books in our leisure centres.”

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