Esteban Sanz worked in a publishing house when in 1969, on December 16 specifically, he had an idea: setting up the first sports bookstore in the country that still bears his name. “He saw that there was a space for this topic because sports books were very scattered. The library was created to bring them together. A specialized bookstore called our attention ”, confesses his son, Jorge Sanz, who is now in charge of the business. The heir to this saga opens the doors of the bookstore to explain his history.
The bookstore started in Plaza Pontejos with 900 titles. Few for a bookstore. Now we are at 15,000 ”, Jorge comments. “We usually have 800 or 900 new items a year, an outrage. In Spain it is edited too much. We are the fourth country in the world in number of titles published. There are more writers than readers ”.
Esteban’s idea might seem foolhardy at the time, but some didn’t see it that way. “He was starting the INEF career in Madrid and they didn’t see him as crazy. He saw the open field and took the opportunity to collaborate with the university library ”.
La Paz street is where it is currently located. They left the Plaza Pontejos because they no longer fit in that place. Currently, they are the only sports bookstore in the country. “That does not mean that we have done better, but that there is no market for so many. That one is not good news, I prefer 20 “.
Many high-level athletes have paraded through this bookstore: Valdano, Maradona, Billiards, Simeone, Mono Burgos, Antonio Díaz Miguel, Juanma Lillo, Gento, Luis Enrique… And journalists like Relaño, Maldini, Quique Peinado… “The list is huge”, Jorge comments. One Saturday afternoon, when Jorge was resting, Bilardo, Maradona and Valdano surprised their father in the bookstore before the World Cup in South Africa. “Jorge is charming and very polite. They came to eat with him at De María (an Argentine restaurant) and then they stopped by. Bilardo and Valdano took some books, but Maradona did not take any. My father asked him if he wasn’t taking anything. Diego replied that he had everything in mind. Then he laughed when Argentina was eliminated ”.
Another of those who has come to the bookstore is Simeone. “He has come twice. He’s a super polite guy. A customer started asking him questions and he responded kindly. He took quite a few books ”.
Rafa The House
The grassroots and middle football coaches are the local’s most frequent customers. Among the readings they choose is Guardiola. “Pep is the one who has generated the most bibliography, although there is also a lot about Maradona and Messi. Coaches especially buy things from Guardiola and Klopp. They buy things from technicians who innovate or revolutionize the landscape ”.
Guardiola, the most desired
Guardiola is the one that generates the most sales, but “there are many books of which no copy has been sold.” “You have to have them in the background in case a client asks you for it. We have a very strong immobilized. If each book costs 20 euros and the margin is 30%, you are paying 70% of that figure ”, confesses Jorge.
This business did not have to reinvent itself much during confinement because they had their website running since 1996, when the internet was in its infancy. “We were the fourth Spanish bookstore to have a website. I had studied computer science and saw that there was a brutal field. At first I would log in once a day to see if there were any requests. Since we inaugurated it, it has been profitable ”.
What they did notice was the absence of customers in person during the quarantine. “We lowered our income by 18%. It is a significant drop, but not enough to close or lay off employees ”.
The pandemic has increased online sales, but not e-books, a business they left behind in Esteban Sanz. “It was not profitable because it is a very small margin on a reduced price.”
The characters that participate in the chain until the books arrive at the bookstore are the author, the printer, the publisher, the distributor and, finally, the bookseller. “They are necessary characters in the market. They are not intermediaries who make money at the expense of others. Typically, the author is the lowest paid. Few people get back the investment of hours and work they have done in the book. They are not profitable. Whoever makes a book is for the love of art ”.
Citizens always criticize the price of books. Given this, Jorge is blunt: “It is not expensive when compared to other types of entertainment or a drink. The book is subsidizing because they deduct cultural VAT and that is a subsidy ”.
Jorge does not complain about government aid. “They are adequate and they are good. The only downside is that the Community of Madrid has the habit of publishing aid on July 28. It’s two days before you go on vacation and you have to do a lot of paperwork ”.
What Jorge does regret is the growth of Amazon. “It is doing a lot of damage. State aid is important, but even more so than cutting the wings off the platforms. If they buy there and not in a store, they are destroying jobs. His goal is to keep everything ”
Jorge takes stock of the state of the business after having celebrated the golden anniversary. “When someone opens a new bookstore, my hands go to my head. You don’t live well as a bookseller. It is a material with little margin and with a very low rotation. Unlike other countries, here the bookseller buys the books. The trade of bookseller is the best of the worst jobs in the world ”.