Report from my exchange with Krumulus children’s bookstore in Berlin
Krumulus owner Anna Morlinghaus and Bokskogen guest Anna Weilemar
Anna Morlinghaus, a children's bookseller at Bokskogen bookshop in Farsta (Sweden), had a great time as a participant in the second round of the RISE Booksellers Exchange. Through this opportunity, Anna was able to learn the ropes of the Berlin bookshop Krumulus for three days. Read some of the key learnings that she got from this experience!
I have spent three wonderful and inspiring days at Krumulus in Kreuzberg, Berlin, with owner Anna Morlinghaus and her fantastic staff Kerstin, Sven, Annette and Max. They immediately made me feel very welcome and to start off the first day I was thrown into a great interactive story hour with some 4-5-year-olds from a nearby “Kita” (Kindergarten). I even got to introduce myself in German and tell the group a little bit about Sweden.
Krumulus was founded by Anna in 2014 and has developed to be a well-known children’s bookstore and cultural hub, winning the German Booksellers Award no less than three times! There are events taking place almost every day of the week – apart from story hours there are reading club meetings, printing workshops, birthday parties and more.
Here I have listed a few things that I learnt:
Purchasing and book distribution
New books are often chosen from the publishers’ catalogues and ordered ahead of every season. Re-stocking orders are placed everyday with delivery the next day! Most orders are done in “Libri”, one of several wholesalers of books, but they sometimes order directly from the “Verlage” (publishers) also.
The delivery costs are according to weight and it’s only a few Euro per delivery (in Sweden freight costs are much higher!). There are certain freight companies serving bookstores only and because of very good logistical planning they can keep the costs down. Books come in reusable plastic boxes and these are also used for returning books, e.g. damaged books or books that haven’t sold (must be returned within 6 months).
The bookstore gets a discount on the “Buchpreis”, which is then its margin. The more books that are bought, the higher a discount. Bookstores in Sweden can get discounts on the “F-pris” (the publisher sales price which is set) and sell the books at around 40-50%* more which is very high according to German standards.
(*depending on the bookstore of course, online the figure is much less)
Krumulus sales/inventory system is connected to Libri so at the end of the day they can quickly see which books need to be restocked and place the order directly. When books are delivered, they are scanned to be put in the system – so no manual work here!!
The sales price is set by the publishers “Buchpreisbindung” so the book price is the same on ALL books in Germany, protecting smaller book stores since customers can’t get the books cheaper even online.
Books are already price marked when they arrive so this is nothing the staff have to worry about!
The Buchpreisbindung also means that the store cannot reduce prices on books/sell out books. They are allowed, though, to sell new books that are slightly damaged at a lower price.
(In Sweden there is an annual official book sale period where books are sold at much cheaper prices, this has been tradition for many years. The official start date is determined by the Swedish Booksellers Association and the bookstores decide for how long they will run the sale.)
Krumulus also has an online shop which is totally run by an external company. It means pretty much no extra work but they get a percentage of the books sales (unless the book is ordered for pick up in the store, in which case they pay a small percentage instead).
Sales to schools and libraries: Krumulus delivers books to some schools and libraries, in which case they also put the books in plastic foil and label the books – a lot of hard work. (In Sweden it is pretty much impossible to se to sell directly to state owned schools and libraries because of public procurement, but my shop has sold some books to private schools and pre-schools.)
Before I arrived, I thought that the events arranged at Krumulus would bring in a lot more income for the store than it actually does (it’s about 20/80 compared with book sales). I thought perhaps that kindergartens and schools pay more per child to participate (like when children’s books authors come to schools in Sweden they get paid a standard fee). The events are part of the business because they create visibility (PR/Marketing) and of course because they are fun and add something to the local community.
The interactive story hours for kindergartens are held two days a week and local “kitas” pay a small fee per child to participate. The gallery room that is used shows different exhibitions with the illustrations from a certain book around which the stories are told, sometimes around a certain theme.
Printing workshops are held for the public two afternoons a week and there is a small fee for each child. When I was there the workshop was potato printing based on a book about a potato! It was very interactive and the children got to help cutting the potato stamps and then go down to the basement studio to print with different colours.
Krumulus also has two different reading clubs for up to 10 years of age and from 11 years of age – “die Lesewölfe” (the Reading Wolves) and they meet every month. When I was at Krumulus they met up with both groups in preparation for a visit at the Leipziger Book Fair, where they were planning visiting some stands/publishers, meeting and interviewing authors etc. A really big project that seemed to be meticulously planned and organized!
The basement can also be booked for children’s birthday parties, which also brings some income to the business.
Book signings/”Buchpremieren”: Krumulus also has a lot of release events for new books where the authors sometimes get paid by their publisher, but the bookshop doesn’t have to pay the usual fee for an author visit.
When discussing this with Anna Morlinghaus, we agreed on that Instagram is an important “window” out to customers and others and also that it is very time consuming to maintain a good flow in social media. Anna used to do much of the writing and photography herself, but now gets help from some of the other employees. Also, with writing the monthly newsletter which is sent out to 2,000 addresses (my newsletter reaches 400 addresses 😊)
Krumulus used to print fantastic programs listing all their events etc. but now they just have digital programs.
Other interesting things learnt
A couple of interesting things to learn was that there is actually a Bookseller university degree in Germany and that even in the biggest cities (e.g. Munich) there is not one single children’s bookstore!