On today’s podcast we’re joined by Tomás Kenny from Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway. Founded in the 1940s, this family business is now the world’s longest running online bookseller, having launched its website in 1994.

Click on the player below to play the podcast audio (download: 16:28; 10MB; MP3), or scroll down to watch the video.

 

The original Kenny’s Bookshop was in High Street, in Galway’s medieval city centre. The growth of their online sales led them to move to a site at Liosbán Industrial Estate on the outskirts of the city, where they still operate a walk-in bookstore, as well as their global fulfilment operation.

That international business was dramatically affected by the crisis as international postal deliveries were initially suspended to virtually every country in the world (An Post now lists 30 countries which can receive mail). But lockdown has also led to an increase in domestic demand.

“There’s been a great movement in Ireland of shopping local and shopping with people who aren’t certain famous web giants, and it’s been great. So, on the one hand we did lose a huge amount of business in terms of our sales abroad, but we’ve managed to claw an awful lot of that back through our domestic sales”

The Covid crisis has prompted many retailers to take their first steps online. Tomás’ advice is to take things one step at a time.

“The number one thing is to have a presence online. People make the mistake sometimes of wanting to go from zero to a thousand, wanting the best website in the world, and quite often a black page with your name and a phone number can do a substantial amount. At the moment, as we were saying, people really want to shop local, so they want to be able to google you and find you and necessarily contact you in some way.

“I would always say: start with the site. Don’t worry about spending a year making it absolutely fantastic. Just get it up there in the first instance. Start driving whatever limited traffic that’ll be there initially … Even now, a relatively substantial amount of the business we do on our website is over the phone, where people go onto the website but they ring us. Even though we have a very good site that functions perfectly well … So having the site there to begin with, having some class of a foothold, I think, is the first thing, rather than worrying too much about making it the best website known to man”

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