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19th May 2021

In conversation with Catalog Bookshop

Catalog Bookshop is a mobile bookshop currently based outside MMU on Oxford Road. Check out their range of periodicals and merchandise
In conversation with Catalog Bookshop
Check out Catalog Bookshop’s mobile shop on Oxford Road Photo: Peter @ Catalog Bookshop

Catalog Bookshop is a Manchester based bookseller on wheels. Peter launched his business, which specialises in periodicals, via a community crowdfunding drive. The company has a sustainable business model, promoting environmentally-friendly activities which aim to unite the local community.

The bookshop is based outside Manchester Metropolitan University on Oxford Road, and it is only a short walking distance from Hatch. Next time you’re near university and fancy a study break, check out the selection of periodicals Catalog Bookshop have on offer.

To find out more about Catalog Bookshop and its creation we went into conversation with Peter, the business owner.

Q&A with Catalog Bookshop

Catalog provides a bookshop service based on wheels. What inspired the idea for the stall?

So, in order to answer your question I’ll have to take you back a few years to explain how a Greek ended up living in the UK. I moved to the UK back in 2011 in order to continue my studies in economics. Fast forward 10 years, with a career in retail, hospitality, and finance, there came a day when I realized that I wasn’t getting any joy from my work. Hence why I decided to try a new career pathway.

Living in Manchester for over 5 years I became a Magma fanatic. I fell in love with the independent titles, the books, and the vibe every time I stepped inside this bookshop. When contemplating what my next career move should be I thought that it might be worth trying to turn my passion into work. I have been quite the bookworm since childhood. Also, I’ve always had the desire to create a space where people from all walks of life can come together to communicate their ideas, needs, interests, and their quirks. I saw an opportunity for a space that serves both the needs and wants of the local community.

The idea of going mobile wasn’t present at that time. My focus was at Hatch. I was about to move my business there before the pandemic struck! As you can imagine all my business plans had to be put on hold. I was quite lucky that just before the pandemic I was able to go on a short trip to Copenhagen. This trip planted the idea for a bookshop on wheels. Seeing how the Danes have incorporated bicycles into their way of living and doing things was phenomenal!

So the financial uncertainty going into a pandemic as a new business having a shop along with my love for the printed world; inspiration taken from the independent shops that I have come across on my travels; as well as by the Scandinavian indie scene and way of living transformed my original idea into a mobile bookshop.

Also, I wanted to offer a more sustainable way of doing business. The idea was to focus on the development of the Greater Manchester Bee Network. The council developed the network so it can try and connect every neighbourhood and community in Greater Manchester. The mission is to make it easier for people to get around on foot or on bike.

So you decided to base Catalog Bookshop on wheels, what next?

After I made the decision to go mobile it was time for me to find the best cargo bike which could accommodate my needs. Christiania bikes seemed to be a no brainer. I chose the Christiania No Box +30 model specifically because I wanted a highly customisable cargo bike.

Next thing, I had to find a designer who understood my vision. I was lucky to find Nick from Studio Critical. Nick developed a mobile bookstore that allows for indie periodicals to be brought to the streets of Manchester. He has blended the practicality of industrial design with the sustainability of the Nordic minimalism. The most amazing thing is that every little component folds and fits like a jigsaw! It’s truly amazing!

What role has crowd-funding and the indie book buying community played in relation to the launch of Catalog Bookshop?

The idea for the crowdfunding was more of a way to spread the word about Catalog and what we are trying to offer to the local community rather than a way to fully fund the project. We were overwhelmed by people’s donations and simple messages of support. The funds that we managed to gather were used as a deposit for the bike.

How the pandemic affected your business?

COVID didn’t have a real impact on Catalog simply because during the pandemic we were building our little bike bookshop. What the pandemic gave us is precious time to work methodically towards the completion of our project and an insight to what the market might look like coming out of lockdown.

What are your business hours?

We are open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am till 6pm and Sunday from 11am till 4pm.

Periodicals are proving popular despite the rise of digital media. What’s your favourite publication you currently have available?

We understand that we live in a growing digital world. But here at Catalog we support the resurgence of small businesses built on face-to-face customer interactions. At a time when social bonds are fraying, I am hoping that Catalog will have the power to create a sense of community and that it will become a hive of activity for those who are passionate about independent print, arts, culture, and design. An Aladdin’s Cave of independent magazines, journals, books, and stationery. We want to create an oasis for the lovers of the printed page.

At Catalog, we are trying hard to carefully curate our stock and everything is very much tailored towards the demands of our customers. One of my favourite titles at the moment is Sixteen Journal. The issues are dedicated to Japanese photography.

I really like the outdoor setup of the stall, but how do you manage with the rainy Manchester conditions?

When we first started trading we had the weather on our side with lovely sunshine that lasted for a few weeks. Unfortunately this didn’t last long. The weather reminded us we live in Manchester! The last couple weeks our trading hours have been affected by the bad weather and rain but we have a solution coming this week! We are hoping to stay dry and protected under a pop up gazebo.

Catalog Bookshop states its environmental and social commitments. How do you maintain those values?

Catalog aims to carry out its activities in a way that minimizes environmental impact on a whole lifecycle analysis basis. Additionally, our approach extends to the use of materials within the business, packaging, transport, etc.

Our business model is designed to do good. It’s circular and sustainable and we believe in making a positive impact in the world and in building a better business that helps us to do more good. Hence why within our first year in operation we will apply to become a certified B Corp.

Certified B Corporations (B Corps™) are for-profit companies that use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. They are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. In short, we care about people and the planet.

What are your future plans for Catalog Bookshop?

It’s still early days but I am already making plans for next year… Maybe a shipping container turned into a walk-in cave for the lovers of the printed world!

Check out Catalog Bookshop on Oxford Road and the range of periodicals they have on sale. You can also show some support for @catalog_manchester by following their social media.

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