Today we’re in the Swiss village of Chexbres, known for it’s wine-making and alpine views, and we’re visiting Céline Debray of online magazine shop Sérendipité. Céline has just opened a concept store in the heart of the village, which she’s stocked with an immense range of independent magazines and local designer goods. Here’s Céline on the world of Swiss publishing and online magazine retail.
When and why did you set up Sérendipité?
Everything began at the end of 2012, after visiting a few bookstores in Sweden, in Germany and in the US. I read a lot: I’m a book lover and digital addict, and I’m also a former professional trend-hunter. I wanted to change my life, and this wish helped me build the first Swiss bookstore dedicated to indie magazines from around the world.
For the first 2 years, Sérendipité was only online and event-based (a pop-up at fairs, night markets and design events). Since September, I have opened up a small bricks and mortar concept store called ‘La Superette by Sérendipité’ (above) where you can buy local food, creative products by local designers and obviously magazines and books (we have more than 160 titles to date).
How do you lay out the magazines?
Online, I systematically use the cover to represent the magazine. Then, depending on what I can get from the editor, I often show a few pages of content.
Who are your customers?
My customers are mainly Swiss people, but each week I send copies everywhere in the world, because I am small with a huge selection and people know that when an issue is out in the main bookstores, there is a chance to find it at Sérendipité.
Creative people and open-minded people are my primary customers. My shop is in a small village and welcomes tourists and local people, who often appreciate finding different reading material than those they might find at traditional newsstands. Generally, my customers are unhappy with the mainstream shopping experience offered by big brands. They want more “human” values.
What’s your best-seller this month?
Let me check… This month, my best seller is Niépi magazine, a French quarterly journal dedicated to noglu (no gluten) and Flow, a Dutch magazine for creative women (DIY).
Do you have a favourite local magazine?
Yes definitely, even though before I had my physical shop I didn’t stock them because I didn’t find them that relevant. Now, things are different, and I am pleased to stock the Swiss magazines Transhelvetica (German language) and from the next issue, Technologist (in French and in English).
Online, one of my favourites is Ligature; it’s about design, culture and visual creation (it’s written in English, and I would love a printed version soon…).
What has the biggest challenge been?
There are big challenges every day for a company run by just one woman such as mine ;) I started from scratch with just three magazines and some banknotes. Now, my two biggest challenges are consolidating the market, taking into account the decline of commercial print media, and, from a personal point of view, finding a good balance between my all-consuming business (in terms of energy, time and cash) and my private life.
What changes have you seen in the magazines since you opened?
I have seen the death of some and the birth of others. The next issue of Anthology Magazine will be its last one; this is a sadness for me because I started with it and because of it! I think quality and specialization are two good criteria for a successful magazine, and I see a lot of new independent titles with very specific topics. Generalist ‘lifestyle’ magazines are getting more and more common, so I fear weariness, except for the big ones like Kinfolk. I also have seen Asian countries adopting the occidental way of making magazines, for example B magazine.