The changing tide in online buying habits has dealt a blow to most retail companies, especially bookstores, but the high Australian dollar is also putting pressure on the store to lower book prices despite rising costs.
Owners Rowland Thomson (pictured) and Crusader Hillis are coming up with some new and inventive ways to push through the down turn, calling on Melbourne’s community to check out their first Rent Party on May 3 and support the local institution.
The party will feature special guests such as Dave Graney and Clare Moore for their first event which will run on the last Friday of each month after May 31.
Thomson told the Star Observer that despite facing difficult times they weren’t closing their doors any time soon.
“Our biggest issue at the moment because of the high Australian dollar is that our book prices are about same as when we started 22 years ago and yet at the same time the expenses, electricity and stuff, has gone up,” he said.
“We’ve got a website, we’ve got a loyal customer base that developed from when we had mail order as well but you become a small fish in a huge pond when you go online.
“So there’s a loyalty there when you go online but it’s always tested with what else is out there.”
The venue now has a cafe and a bar which plays home to a number of community groups and book clubs such as ButchFemmeTrans Melbourne, OutBlack and the queer craft group Stitch’n’Bitch.
“When we first opened, we saw events as a way of developing a culture that we would benefit from as well through having a stronger writing culture out there,” Thomson said.
It also acts as a creative hub for upcoming and established artists, holding poetry nights, comedy shows, launch events and in-depth conversations.
“We hope it has developed in that way and by having people seen as the focus… in the events that we have, there is a lot of stuff going on out there.”
He said, over the years, other alternative bookstores with strong queer sections had either cut back on queer content or gone bust like Perth’s Arcane bookstore.
Sydney’s Bookshop Darlinghurst is the only other LGBTI-specific bookstore in Australia.
Rent Party starts at 7pm on May 3.