We Sell Books: ‘We’re extremely busy with confirmation and communion’

Vicky Leng, manager of Veritas Bookshop at Carey’s Lane, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Vicky Leng, from Ballinlough in Cork, is manager of the Veritas store on Carey’s Lane in Cork. 

The shop sells books, music, gifts and religious items, and provides liturgical resources. 

It has eight branches throughout the country and also has an online store and its own publishing imprint.

How long has the shop been in business?

The shop opened in Cork in 1978; we were originally on Bridge Street. 

It was a much bigger shop, dealing with more customers, including schools, parishes, all of that — we still do that, but it’s smaller now.

We moved down to Carey’s Lane, where we are now, about 16 years ago. I joined in 2006.

What is your background?

I came to Ireland, from China, in 2005. I did an English course in Dublin, then I came to Cork, to study guidance counselling at UCC.

I met my husband here and didn’t leave.

I love Cork; I find a sense of belonging here.

How did you come to this job?

It was a part-time job, at first. I was still in college, in UCC, and I saw a notice in the window for Christmas staff, and I just never left.

When the previous manager retired, the opportunity came up. 

I applied and I’m very grateful the company decided to give me the opportunity.

What is the main business of the shop?

The main business is books and gifts. A large number of customers are Catholic and, at present, we’re extremely busy with confirmation and communion season. 

We sell missals, cards, frames, candles, keepsake boxes, all of that. 

We have regular customers, who come in for books on spirituality, psychology, self-help. 

They’ve been selling well in recent years. We also deal with a lot of people who’ve been recently bereaved — they need things like memorial cards. 

We also have a children’s books section, where we have books that help kids to deal with issues like bereavement, bullying, self-respect, body awareness, and peer pressure.

What are the other aspects of the business of which people might not be aware?

We deal a lot with schools and dioceses throughout the south of the country. That takes up a lot of time during the day. 

People come in and often say, ‘oh, it’s so nice and quiet’, they probably think we’re here reading a book, but we get lots of emails and phone calls from schools and offices about orders, so it’s very busy. 

We also send stuff out to elderly customers, who may not be able to make it into the shop. 

We have eight branches around the country, but from the middle of the country down, there’s only Ennis and Cork, so we cover a big area. 

I know online business is getting bigger and bigger, particularly for younger people, but older generations still like to phone the shop, to have a real person look after them, someone who knows what they’re looking for.

How has business changed over the years?

We have our own website and there’s a huge volume of purchasing online, rather than in the shop. 

We take advantage of it and use the website as a platform to make the general public aware of us. 

I know a lot of people who wouldn’t know the shop existed before, they now know because of Google that the shop is on Carey’s Lane, and we get a lot of new customers. 

They probably wouldn’t have thought of us before, but now they come in, so we benefit from it. 

Good customer service is the key to what we do — the customers that come in tell you a lot of their life stories. 

It is important to understand, listen, and give them information they need.

What kind of feedback do you get from customers?

It’s a different time for the Church now and we do see a lot of older customers. 

Of course, Roman House [on North Main Street] was a landmark in the city for religious materials, and, after that closed, a lot of people came in saying that they were grateful we’re still here.

It is very important for them to have somewhere to come for mass cards and things like that. 

The smallest thing we might sell is a medal, but one small medal could mean a lot to one customer. 

Small things can mean a lot in this shop.

What are the rewards of working in this business?

Veritas is a very good company to work for. 

All the staff here are working here for years; we have a great relationship. I love dealing with customers here — compared to other retail businesses, I think we’re quite different. 

We have more connections with customers. 

Right now, with the communions and confirmations, there are lots of grandparents coming in to buy gifts — we see them come in for every grandchild; it’s lovely.

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