For our penultimate 2018 Bookshop of the Month, we travelled up to Wakefield to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) Shop. Nestled in the grounds of the UK’s first ever sculpture park, the YSP shop is a destination store for visiting lovers of sculpture, installation art and more. We spoke to Amanda, Retail Programme and Development Manager at YSP, about their customer base, bestselling books and exciting plans for the new year…
Photo Credits to Jonty Wilde and Yorkshire Sculpture Park
1. Yorkshire Sculpture Park occupies 500 acres of sweeping fields, lakes and woodland. What’s it like running a shop in such a spectacular location?
It’s pretty special! Driving into Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), you’re greeted by the incredible view of rolling Yorkshire hills, dotted with contemporary sculpture, including a collection of bronzes by Henry Moore and roaming sheep. And this first glimpse is just a teaser of what’s to come in the rest of the Park. There’re over 80 sculptures, lakes, woodland, highland cows, eccentric follies; the list goes on. It’s impossible not to be inspired by all of this, and we really are! What’s going on in the Park informs what we put on our shelves.
2. The Park regularly exhibits the work of world-famous artists, such as Sean Scully and Ai Weiwei. How does your shop engage with these exhibitions?
YSP welcomes around half a million visitors every year and our temporary exhibitions programme is a big draw so it’s really important for us to reflect this in the shop. We work closely with exhibiting artists to design and publish quality exhibition catalogues which provide a beautiful documentation of these exhibitions. Over the past 40 years, we’ve produced and sold catalogues to accompany exhibitions by artists including Ai Weiwei, Andy Goldsworthy, Barbara Hepworth, KAWS and James Turrell. We also wholesale our books, which extends their reach to wider audiences.
3. Is your customer base made up of local regulars as well as tourists visiting the Park? How do you tailor your book buying accordingly?
We definitely do have some regulars, however, our main customer base is YSP visitors (or tourists). YSP is sited in quite a rural location so we don’t get passers-by. Customers of the shop generally come as part of a wider visit to the Park, and this definitely informs our book buying. We tailor our selection of titles to subjects that are linked to the YSP offer, whether that’s books about sculpture, illustration, craft, artists, nature, wellbeing or lifestyle, and we have a wonderful collection of inspiring children’s books too.
4. What have been your bestselling books of the past year?
The outright winner of the bestselling book title is The Wish Post by Mister Finch. The book launched in the summer to coincide with the textile artist’s YSP exhibition of the same name. The response to his show was fantastic and we definitely saw this reflected in the shop – stock of the book barely lasted the duration of the exhibition. That said, we do have a few copies back in stock if you fancy getting your hands on one!
The Long, Long Life of Trees by Fiona Stafford has also sold particularly well. We selected this book for the shop as it fits the themes of our Giuseppe Penone A Tree in the Wood exhibition perfectly. Titles that link to our exhibition programme always prove popular with customers.
One of our personal favourites, which is also a top seller, would have to be The Little Book of Garden Bird Songs by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham. Quite often the sounds of serenading blackbirds and robins drift into the area around our children’s book display. There’s no better soundtrack.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop that you’d like to share with us?
Yes, we’re opening an additional visitor centre at the Park next year, which will house another shop. We’re currently going through the exciting process of selecting the range of books that we’ll stock there. The additional shop will give us the chance to diversify our offer and also reach visitors that don’t always make it to the other shop (with over 500 acres to explore, it is possible!). The new shop opens on 30 March 2019 so there’s plenty to keep us busy over the next few months.