For the first time in our Reseller Spotlight series, we travel north of the border to Canada’s largest independent bookstore, McNally Robinson Booksellers. Open since 1980, this establishment has transformed into two massive locations, each providing a unique experience unlike any traditional bookstore. A retailer of MOVA Globes for over a year, McNally Robinson Bookstores has been a mainstay for locals and visitors alike. Angela Torgerson, giftware manager, sat down with us to talk more about the team’s passion for books, community, and the store’s growing success with MOVA Creations.
Tell us a little bit about your stores.
Angela Torgerson: McNally Robinson Booksellers is Canada’s largest independent bookstore. We have locations in both Winnipeg, MB and Saskatoon, SK and the business began in 1980. Our locations are large, both of which are approximately 25,000 sq. feet and include lovely baby and toy departments as well as a music store that features a large selection of vinyl albums as well as CDs, DVDs and BluRay. Our stores both also have a full service fine dining establishment within them, Prairie Ink Restaurant and Patisserie.
Our giftware department is large and varied within each store and we aim to offer unique, eclectic and luxury items that would be hard to find elsewhere. My goal in buying for the department is purely based on serendipity. I aim for the store to look a little different each time a customer comes in and to offer a selection that delights and surprises. Some of our recent success stories include the MOVA Globes, as well as Kala Brand Ukuleles, April Cornell Nightware, Le Creuset Cookware and Corx purses from Portugal just to name a few.
In which of your locations are MOVA Globes sold and how do customers generally react upon seeing them?
We sell MOVA Globes at both of our locations and customers are fascinated by them daily. Our staff can now recite my explanation as to how they are moving because they have heard me repeat it multiple times a day to inquiring customers! The response and curiosity surrounding them have been overwhelmingly positive!
What makes your bookstores unique compared to traditional bookstores in the United States?
That’s a great question-thank you! There are many things that set us apart as a retail business, particularly in the bookstore industry. For all of us, regardless of role or department, our first love is books and we have many expert booksellers in each of the stores. We hold launches, signings and events for authors from around the world and this brings customers, new and regular, into the store and gives them the opportunity to take part, above and beyond their purchases.
We are a very community based business and environment, and these events, as well as our Community Classroom, where local educators hold classes throughout the year, reinforce that. Our motto is “Imagine What a Bookstore Can Be” and we strive to create that atmosphere everyday. Each section is diverse, unique and varied and we we try to offer a completely different experience from a more traditional brick and mortar location. This of course includes not only giftware, but our self-publishing department, our music store, and our baby and children’s departments to name just a few!
Typically, bookstore visitors are perusing through thousands of novels to find their next great reads. Yet, in your stores, your customers still find time to look at and gain interest in your giftware items. How do get people who walked in for a book to spend time looking at other items?
A big part of any giftware item or line that sells well in our stores is the way we display them. We have a talented desktop publishing department and our staff and I work very hard on how we display and market new items. The MOVA Globes, as you know, were featured in our 2015 Holiday Catalogue and this helped generate interest when they were new to our stores. We also really believe in being able to tell a story with each line that we carry, so having informed and enthusiastic staff on hand to answer questions about the globes makes all the difference!
What are the greatest rewards of being part of a family-owned independent retailer?
As an independently owned retailer, and working for such a company, the biggest reward is the fact that each of us is truly committed to seeing the business succeed. There is a lot of support within our organization, our owners are involved in every step of running the business, from floor and cash shifts to managing the business; including listening to the frequent pitches I make them as to what I think we should be selling! The freedom to take chances within my role and to work for a business that is constantly evolving has been an absolute joy and filled with daily excitement and the best sort of challenges. We truly have a great team atmosphere and all of our staff from part-time book or gift sellers to our owners take a lot of pride in our stores, and we hope that is evident to our customers each time they visit.
Which MOVA Globe design is your favorite and why?
I would have said that the Antique Globe was my favorite prior to the Toronto Gift Fair but now I am so excited to get the MOVA Cube in! I saw it online last year when it was being test marketed and again this late spring when it began winning industry awards! I am certain that it is going to be a big hit this holiday season.
Just so everyone knows: What is the Espresso Book Machine?
The Espresso Book Machine (or, as we often refer to it, the EBM) is a bundle of technology designed and built by On Demand Books for in-store publishing. Comprised of two printers (one to print the outer cover and a second to produce the interior pages), a computer terminal, and unique machinery made by On Demand Books, the EBM can print, bind, and trim a paperback book all by itself in about 32 square feet. And it works fast, able to start and finish a book in about eight minutes. That’s why it’s called the Espresso Book Machine – it works like it’s on a caffeine rush!
Next time you’re in Canada, McNally Robinson Booksellers should be at the top of your to-visit list. With its toy, music, and gift departments, along with its vast selection of books, this bookstore offers an experience unlike any other out there. Add in a full dining establishment and you may as well spend the entire day browsing through aisles and aisles of books and products. Want to learn more about the largest independent bookstore north of the border? View the links below: