In addition to selling books from small, independent publishing houses that are hard to find in mainstream chain stores, Alice and Anita offer their shop as a venue for workshops, talks and other weekly activities. They have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere, bringing the community together. Alice and Anita say “Our biggest strength is the personal relationships we have built with our customers. Many have become friends over the years.”
YBI’s member in Italy, MicroLab, has supported Alice and Anita from the beginning, connecting them to a mentor, when they obtained a small loan to start their business. This support was particularly valuable when, in 2016, the business went through a rough patch as the surrounding roads were closed due to construction. Alice and Anita say “We believe in the power of networking and invested in our relationships with our customers and other independent bookshops in Milan. With great effort, we managed to sustain our business.”
Alice and Anita are now faced with uncertainty again due to the COVID-19 crisis. Like most small businesses based in the heavily affected Lombardy region, Libreria Corteccia relies on in-person interactions. Alice and Anita have had to close their shop indefinitely and are suffering significant losses. They have quickly adapted their business model by joining the home delivery service for an independent publishing house as a supplier. However, they know that to ensure their business survives they need to do more.
Alice and Anita want to build their digital knowledge and skills so that they can stay connected to their customers and sell books online through their website. They say:
“We know we will get through this new challenge by keeping our community of customers together. We are developing a new digital strategy for our business, including offering online talks with authors and readers, and introducing an e-commerce platform.”
Libreria Corteccia is one of the many small businesses that will receive support through our new COVID-19 Rapid Response and Recovery Programme with Google.org. MicroLab will deliver a range of services, including crisis hotlines, business counselling and mentoring. Find out more here.
“At the moment our short-term goal is to be able to return to a normal situation and correct the negative impact of this period on our business as soon as possible.”