The new normal isn’t Woozles’s first competition

The new normal isn’t Woozles’s first competition

< Back to Articles | Topics: HFX New Normal | Contributors: Mina Atia, Halifax Chamber of Commerce, Intern, Communications Coordinator | Published: June 10, 2020

Founded by three friends in 1978, Woozles closed its doors to the public a couple of months ago. But it still found a way to continue serving its customers. The children’s bookstore was suddenly faced by a state of emergency on March 19 and had to quickly adapt.

“We had to look after the health and economic welfare of our staff and figure out how to continue serving our customers,” says Liz Crocker, Woozles owner and one of its co-founders.

“But we are so grateful we already had an online presence and systems set up to manage online orders.”

Keeping new regulations top of mind, Woozles started phone and online orders with contactless curbside pickup and free home delivery. Operating hours were reduced to only five days per week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. but Saturday was recently added to keep up with demands.

“We are all scrambling a bit and working hard to adjust to all the changes in our sector at the moment,” says Suzy MacLean, store manager.

Their new reliance on technology was not Woozles’s first challenge. The store has been affected by a lot of external influences over the years – from the emergence of giants like Amazon and discounters like Costco and Walmart, to handling the reduced accessibility effects of nearby development projects and ever increasing business taxes.

“But the sudden and profound changes required because of COVID-19 have been all brand new,” says Crocker.

Woozles has also started allowing customers, one day a week, to shop in store by making an appointment in advance. However, located at 1533 Birmingham Street, the store’s layout doesn’t accommodate many customers at a time while properly adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The bookstore is planning to welcome more customers as safely as possible as time permits. “Our current challenge is ensuring we can serve our customers effectively and efficiently while not burning out our staff,” says Crocker. “As people look ahead to the fall and whether schools will be open and, if so, what that will look like, we will stay alert and be as responsive as we can.”

Crocker has no firm idea yet what the new normal will look like for Woozles. Other than focusing on what is known right now, they’re working on being adaptable. “We are very much in the moment,” she says. “We have adapted to a new way of serving customers and providing the programs for young people that we have run in the past.”

As its vision states: a place for and about children, Woozles has held over 1,000 workshops for children and youths. They’ve launched initiatives such as Woozles on Wheels, Woozles Birthday Parties, Woozles Bookclub and Battle of the Books.

Now in its 42nd year, the Battle of the Books competition aims to stimulate children’s interest in reading. It has been estimated to have encouraged almost 2,000 children in their enthusiastic reading, featuring over 3,000 books.

“By mid-March we had just reached the semi-final rounds,” says Crocker. “We managed to complete the competition by bringing students together through technology, which was wonderful for us, the teachers and the kids.”

Recent additions, Woozles Writes! Writing Competition and, in the summer, free Halifax Public Garden Storytime for children further showcase that Woozles is more than just a store.

The writing competition will be managed differently this year with all entries submitted electronically. Woozles, who didn’t have cash registers for the first eight years it was open, now relies heavily on technology to continue being a resource for children in the community.

“Through social media, we are letting people know of resources available to support parents, who are at home with their kids, and fabulous authors who are making themselves available on these platforms,” says Crocker.

Woozles received many accolades including Bookseller of the Year, Specialty Bookseller of the Year twice and the Silver Recognition Award from the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

“We have also appreciated the Chamber continuing to provide information and updates regarding government programs and guidance about how to re-open safely,” says Crocker.

Woozles also won Gold in both 2017 and 2018 in The Coast's Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Awards in the category of Best Independent Bookseller.

Despite all the recognition, Woozles is prouder when customers come into the store with young children mentioning that they used to visit Woozles when they were kids. That it has always been a special place for them.

“We are beyond thrilled and grateful that people are choosing and continue to shop locally and support us,” says Crocker. “We are also grateful for people’s patience as we figure out how to safely reopen.”

“We love Halifax!”

Woozles offers contactless curb-side pickup and free delivery, within a 30-mile radius, for online or over-the-phone orders.

< Back to Articles | Topics: HFX New Normal

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