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James Heneage deserves a medal. The man is clearly a genius. To invisage creating the bookshop we've all always dreamed of... welcoming, atmospheric, a collection of books so vast that the only problem you'll will have on entering the store is deciding where to begin.
And of course once we have made that decision there are plenty of eager, helpful, polite and genuinely pleasant staff on hand to guide us to the relevant section, shelf, and very often, book. Not that help is always needed - the sections are clearly labelled, and well organised. This has to be the easiest shop to navigate! There are signs hanging from the celing, on the walls, on the bookcases.
I want to know where they find Ottakars staff - these are a very special breed of bookseller. The ons that i have experienced have all been exeptionally polite, chatty, interesting and interested. Not only are they genuinely interested in their specific sections, and care passionately about supplying you with the ideal book from said section, but they must be immensely creative too. There are always lovely displays, and handmade signs, posters, and directions dotted about the store. It is personal touches like this that make you forget that Ottakars is a nationwide company - it feels like a homely discrete local bookshop, no corporate influence.
There is always somebody in store that is an expert on the type of book you are looking for, and if it is unfortunately that expert's day off (these booksellers, despite their wonderful
bookselling abilities, dare i say it, are only human) then every attempt is made to help by somebody else, phoning publishers, others stores etc.
They all know their stuff, and if they cannot find the book you require in store then every attempt is made to either order it, or suggest another method of getting your paws on this book. They have an out of print book search service that they recommend, and they have no qualms about recommending another bookshop if they believe that this other shop will be able to help more than they. (Though how this is possible, I cannot imagine).
So, the vast majority of us will by now have our book in our hands, ready to purchase. But we fancy a flick through it, just to make sure its what we want. Well here we have several options; we can go to the very quiet, serene top floor and have a seat at either one of the two tables, or perhaps on the comfy sofas. It is the perfect peaceful atmosphere for some indepth reading.
BUT! You require refreshment. Simply pop down a floor and there is a Costa coffee shop. Actually nothing to do with Ottakars, barr being on the same premises, however there is no give away of this. The two atmospheres blend perfectly. You can sit in the coffee shop, well it is more like another corner in which you can sit relax and read, but here you can buy coffee! And there is a good selection of coffee, hot chocolate, drinks for children, a light snack. All your needs are catered for.
The toilets are on the top floor - up 2 flights of stairs, or 1 flight of esculators and 1 flight of stairs depending on your chosen journey. If you cant make it, the staff are perfectly willing to aid you with the lift, which is spacious, and even the lift has character - green, carpet on the walls, you can see the bricks and you move up or down. This literally memerises children, should they be bored!
But of course, they have no reason to be, as there is a childrens play area downstairs, amongst the childrens section. This section is amazing - magical. Always a display, childrens work on the walls, toys, books, posters, banners. It really does reintroduce the magic of reading back into a world where often it seems that it has truly been irradicated.
And as if this is not enough, they provide amazing events. The immediate event to spring to mind was the lauch of the most recent Harry Potter book - fancy dress, a magician, a life size Harry Potter cleverly made by a memeber of staff (creative too!), face painting, lucky dips (free) for the kids, even the staff were joining in with the fun - all in mystical, wonderful costumes in theme with HP. And my favourite, the owls. Two owls on the top floor that had people absolutely delighted.
It is events like these that place Ottakars far and away above all other bookshops. The staff truly care and put an incredible amount of effort into pleasing every single individual customer. Heneage may have come up with the idea of creating a delightful bookshop that entices people in off the street, but how on earth has he made sure that every member of staff that his company employ put 110% into the job, and genuinely enjoy doing so?
There are always promotions running - 10% off, 2 for £10, 3 for 2s. The prices are reasonable, and these promotions can save you a fortune. Unfortunately the company has ceased to provide student discount, as they do not get reembursed and the book selling business is not a particularly profitable one as it is. But the range of books more than makes up for this - they have an amazing range of books for topics across the board. And if you buy the wrong book, they have an excellent service where you can either replace it, get a refund, no questions asked as long as you have proof of purchase. They also provide a delivery service (postal) and the only extra fee is the cost of the stamp. Every attempt is made to provide an outstanding service.
Finally, as i feel i have gone on a little here, the store is easily accessible - in the middle of Lincoln city. They allow dogs, there is plenty of space for wheelchairs, and there is esculators, stairs and a lift. The window displays call you in and they often have art and crafts by people from the local community on sale on the ground floor. I don't think i can compliment this fantastic bookstore any more - they have covered every last need of their customers and I, for one, am very impressed. I recommend it to anybody who can get to a store, and I hope that they all are run to the very high standard of the Lincoln store.