Super Salon, Warsaw
If you’ve been on the Super Salon website you’ll know that they stock almost every independent magazine you can think of. The shop is located in the city centre of Warsaw, neighbouring a shoemakers and leatherworkers in a small pavilion that has historically housed craftsmen’s workshops. With over 2,000 titles to choose from, Super Salon is one of the largest shops of its kind, run by photographer Krzysztof Kowalski and his girlfriend Ala Gabillaud. We caught up with Krzystztof to find out more about the self-fashioned ‘Kiosk of contemporary culture’.
When and why did you set up Super Salon?
I opened Super Salon in 2012. At the time there were no places in Warsaw that stocked both cultural books and magazines, certainly not to the extent that I had in mind. I felt there was a niche that the big chain stores, kiosks and museum shops didn’t fulfil. I was also always a big fan of print and had my own little collection at home. One day I realised that most of the titles I was into I bought when travelling or online. This was the main reason why I opened the store, there wasn’t anywhere in Warsaw to buy independent titles. From the beginning, I was mainly thinking about myself when ordering stock, thinking about what I like and what my friends would want to buy. Turns out, there is a big group of like-minded people in Warsaw.
The first location of Super Salon (we’ve now moved) came about accidentally. I was a student back then, so I ran the shop under my mother’s company – a beauty salon – the business that she still runs in Jelenia Góra, my hometown. We were renovating the space and I had to come up with a name. I was browsing through ideas, and suddenly ‘Super Salon’ emerged. Ten years earlier, in 2002, my mom got an award called ‘Super Salon’ – the best beauty salon in the country as chosen by Salon I Elegancja magazine. I thought that it fit in every way possible, so we stuck with that.
After almost a year there, my girlfriend Ala and I decided that it was time to move the shop to the city centre to get more customers.
How do you lay out the magazines around the shop and how did you decide on that set up?
Because our shop is quite small, we decided to mix magazines and books together, and to sort them by category. Most of the titles are presented with the covers facing the customer. We also have our bestsellers and theory section in piles, and single titles on regular shelves. All of our titles are available to purchase online, so that is also a way that our customers browse through our selection before coming to the shop. The decision to showcase most magazines by their cover came about because we felt that it’s just easier and more fun for customers to see them that way. Besides, a cover says a lot about a book :)
Who are your customers?
Our customers are mainly creative industry professionals: photographers, graphic designers, agency owners, fashion and industrial designers, architects etc. The second group consists of people for whom cultural topics are just a hobby, and they just enjoy beautiful pictures. The third and last, quite big group are people looking for gifts for friends belonging to the first two categories I mentioned.
What’s your best-seller this month?
Polish titles always sell pretty well. This month, the first issue of fashion/culture magazine Sezon sold particularly well. This is Paper also launched their new, redesigned issue this month, and we’ve already been seeing good sales on that. In terms of international magazines, the top five this month will be The Gentlewoman, Fantastic Man, Kinfolk, Self Service and Cereal.
Do you have a favourite local magazine?
It is hard to say which one is our favourite. We feel that in the last three years we’ve had our shop, there has also been a big movement in independent publishing in Poland. More and more, people are producing their own titles: Futu, Usta, Smak, Zwykłe Życie, Fathers, F5, This is Paper, Sezon, Kukbuk, Label, &Living, Szum, Rzut, DIK Fagazine, 2+3D and Print Control. Print is not dead in Poland: it’s developing in interesting directions.
What has the biggest challenge been?
At the beginning, the biggest challenge was getting all the essential titles to our shop without becoming bankrupt along the way. Now, it’s about introducing new titles to our customers in a way that ensures they will continue purchasing the subsequent issues. The other challenge that we struggle with is that our shop is too small for our entire catalogue, so we have to be selective with what’s on the shelves. It’s hard putting good stuff aside and only having them available online.
What changes have you seen in the magazines since you opened?
Magazines are now focusing more on content, not just the visual side of things. They’re also now beginning to see that producing a magazine is just the beginning of the process: getting it to the customer takes a lot of work. The biggest challenge for all publishers is to surprise the reader with every issue and to get them coming back for more. That’s something that we try to accomplish with our store – having readers coming back so that we build a sense of community.