Octavia's Bookshop is a huge success with young readers
The Cirencester Chamber of Commerce announced Octavia Karavia as the Cotswold Life Cirencester Ambassador at its business awards earlier this year for her thriving business Octavia’s Bookshop. Charlotte Shepherd met her at the Cirencester shop.
IN AN age of online bookshops and Kindle it is refreshing to find that one of Cirencester’s biggest success stories is a children’s bookshop.
Octavia Karavia had already inspired a love of reading in a generation of children in the Cotswolds by the time she opened Octavia’s children’s bookshop in Cirencester.
Seven years as a children’s book specialist at Waterstone’s had earned her a loyal following amongst parents and children and these avid readers stuck with her when she took the plunge and opened Octavia’s Bookshop in March 2011.
“Everyone said that I couldn’t open a children’s bookshop in Cirencester because the town was too small,” said Octavia. “But I had such a loyal following and the children have followed me here. Parents around here are also amazing and they care so much about their children reading.”
This loyal following is clear to see when I visit the shop to interview Octavia. Not only does she know the names of many of the local children who come in to stock up on their holiday reading, but she remembers what book they last read and what style of book they enjoy, recommending new books for them with ease.
Loyalty has also come from the many schools who support what Octavia is trying to achieve. “I have 26 schools and nurseries with accounts at the shop,” she explained. “They buy their books from me and bring classes into the bookshop. I also organise for authors to visit schools.”
Being named as the Cirencester Ambassador at the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce business awards came as a “complete shock” to the 32-year old.
“It was voted for by readers of Cotswold Life which makes it extra special. You don’t ask people to vote for you. It is left down to the public. It was a great surprise. I was thrilled,” she said.
Octavia is no stranger to awards and has two shelves displaying them behind the counter. This year’s award from the Bookseller naming Octavia’s Bookshop as the best independent children’s bookshop in the country for 2013 catapulted Octavia onto the national stage and has given her the ability to attract bigger names for author book signings.
Regular book signings at the shop is just one of the ways that Octavia has chosen to “add value” to what she offers. “I also run book clubs for children and am a partner in Cirencester’s first children’s literary festival this month,” she explained. “You can’t just run a shop anymore. You have to add value and we have to be part of the community.”
It is this community aspect and the contribution that she has made to the town that earned Octavia her award as Cirencester Ambassador.
Octavia has seen a shift in sales patterns since first opening her shop. Her small adult section at the back of the shop has proved increasingly popular and parents often buy themselves several books whilst stocking up for their children. “The adult section has grown but not to the detriment of the children’s books. Originally our sales were 90 percent children’s books and 10 percent adult but now it is more like 30 percent adult books,” she said.
Looking ahead, Octavia knows that she has no room to physically expand the shop and so will focus on holding events that add value to the shop and the town.
She is most excited to be a part of this week's inaugural Cirencester Children’s Literary Festival. A partnership between Octavia’s, Cirencester Library and The Bingham Library Trust, this one-week festival has been bringing children’s authors into the town for book signings, talks and fun activities.
With something to suits all ages, Octavia believes this could become an annual event. “This is such good news for Cirencester,” said Octavia. “We want everyone to be able to come and have kept ticket prices down to just £1. I am hugely excited. It is a first for Cirencester and with all proceeds going to the Bingham Library Trust the festival is not for commercial gain.”
With the Cirencester Ambassador’s loyal band of followers to call on this Literary Festival is, like Octavia’s previous ventures, surely assured success.
• Octavia’s Bookshop is at 24 Black Jack Street, Cirencester, GL7 2AA. Call 01285 650677 or go to www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk.