More than just a business: The Women's Bookshop

  • Opinion
  • April 13, 2017
  • The Register team
More than just a business: The Women's Bookshop

As the Auckland Writers Festival draws near we talked to Carole Beu, owner of The Women’s Bookshop; a store that has continued to thrive in its physical space while holding true to its core values.

The Women’s Bookshop opened in 1989, and opened its first flagship location on Dominion Road. Then moved to Ponsonby 10 years later.

Community is an important part of the stores identity, which could be a reason the stand-alone store has continued to thrive as online book sales rise.

We talked to Carole Beu, owner of The Women’s Bookshop, about the success of her store, and why she thinks her shop will continue to grow as a strong contender in the book sector.

Why do you think your store has fared so well even through the rise of online shopping?

“My shop continues to flourish because of the service we offer that is simply not available through on-line shopping. My staff are all avid readers with brilliant personal communication skills. We engage with customers in discussions about books and are all very skilled at the fine art of hand-selling.”

“We run lots of author events and book launches in the shop, as well as larger events in bigger venues; we are a community resource for information and activities, sell tickets free of charge for community events, especially during the annual Pride Festival, and provide a ‘safe space’ for women.”

“Men are always welcome and often appreciate the help we are able to give them with their selections.”

Most of our business is through the physical shop, with a small but significant proportion of sales coming through our online bookshop. Our customers are increasingly using our ‘click and collect’ service.

When do you notice a busy period for your business?

“The busiest times for us are the weeks right before Christmas and April/May every year – the lead-up to the Auckland Writers Festival and during the festival itself.”

“With Unity Books Auckland we co-operatively run the HUGE AWF bookstalls. This involves thousands of books spread over many locations at the Aotea Centre and elsewhere, with up to 35 staff!”

Has your store had to adapt in any way to keep up with consumer demands?

“We have a great reputation for sourcing special orders for people. We go ‘the extra mile’ to find difficult books for customers. We are fast and efficient, couriering out piles of books every day. Many of these result from phone and email inquiries, and many from our excellent on-line bookshop, which categorises books in detail, so customers can easily find what they are looking for.”

“The main way we have adapted over the 28 years is in the area of technology. People expect a quick response, so it is crucial to keep up with technological developments. Our website/online bookshop is user-friendly and our Facebook page is updated regularly. We send out e-newsletters to our thousands of customers only when we have something important and interesting to tell them.”

Why do you think there is still a want for physical bookstores?

“Physical bookshops are still needed for the overall experience they provide – browsing, the tangible feel and smell of the books, the personal service and guidance they receive from experts, the engagement with other book-lovers about the books, the ‘discovery’ of books they didn’t know about.”

“Real bookshops provide a ‘treasure hunt’, where people come across the thing they didn’t even realise they wanted!”

What genre of book for you sells the best?

“Our largest volume of sales comes from literary fiction, particularly by women. We also sell a lot of biography, feminism, personal growth and counseling, parenting, cooking, lesbian, and carefully selected children’s books.”

Do you think the demand for women’s voices in literature is still growing?

In our major annual events, such as our Ladies Litera-Teas, we deliberately promote women writers – because there is still a need for women’s voices to be heard and to be taken as seriously as men’s. Our Ladies’ Litera-Tea, held in a 300-seater theatre on a Sunday afternoon, features a dozen New Zealand women writers who have a new book out that year. They have 20 minutes each, with six up on stage before and after the lavish and delicious afternoon tea!

Why is a feminism based bookshop so important to you?

“We run the shop in feminist ways as much as we can. While I am ultimately responsible as the owner/operator, I consult with my staff and value their opinion when an important decision has to be made. The staff takes particular responsibility in their areas of expertise but we all share general tasks.”

“The Women’s Bookshop is important to me because it is so much more than ‘just’ a business. We are a feminist space that welcomes everyone, we promote women’s work (while stocking a wide range of books by men as well), we have wonderful interactions with our customers every day (many of whom have a sense of ownership – it is ‘their’ shop), and we provide a warm, safe, friendly space where people like to meet and ‘hang-out’.”

“We have won many awards over the years, particularly for our promotional activities. We are regarded, I believe, as one of the best little independent bookshops in New Zealand.

And I have the best job in the world – my ‘job’ is also my hobby and my passion.”

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Trust the process: Is there still a place for liquor licensing trusts?

Liquor licensing trusts are a unique corner of the retail market, but is the model still relevant in our fast-changing business environment? Sarah Dunn weighs ...

Sponsored content

Recruitment with a fresh frame of mind

Frame Retail is the recruitment agency with an eye for fashion retail.


Kathmandu becomes Australia and New Zealand’s largest B Corp business

  • News
  • September 11, 2019
  • The Register
Kathmandu becomes Australia and New Zealand’s largest B Corp business

Listed outdoor goods retailer Kathmandu has secured B Corp accreditation, making it the largest business of its kind to have done so in Australia and New Zealand.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Chinese ecommerce retailer Aomaijia shows it’s serious about Australasia

  • News
  • September 11, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
 Chinese ecommerce retailer Aomaijia shows it’s serious about Australasia

One of China’s fastest-growing ecommerce businesses, Aomaijia, has launched its first Australasian offices in Sydney. This will enable it to source products from Australia and New Zealand to sell to its 30 million Chinese shoppers.

Read more

Retail giant Nido has launched stage one

  • News
  • September 10, 2019
  • The Register
Retail giant Nido has launched stage one

Currently under construction in Henderson is Nido: A $60 million homegrown furniture and homewares concept store that’s expected to span 27,000 square metres. While the main store is still approximately three months from opening, Nido has launched its commercial furniture interiors division, which is named Nido@work.

Read more

A journey to bricks and mortar: Two years on with Nisa

  • News
  • September 10, 2019
  • Hemma Vara
A journey to bricks and mortar: Two years on with Nisa

We talk to Elisha Watson, founder of social enterprise Nisa, about Nisa’s growth from online to an established store in Wellington. Nisa’s mission is to employ and empower women from refugee backgrounds.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit