Saturday, January 19, 2008

From THE BOOKSELLER 18 January

Noble independent booksellers reverse decline

The dramatic decline in the number of independent booksellers was halted in 2007 after a dire 2006, when independents were closing at a rate of almost two a week.

According to figures from the Booksellers Association, 81 new indies opened in 2007, with 72 closing. It is a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the independent sector: in 2006, 96 stores closed and only 64 opened. Meryl Halls, head of membership services at the BA, said she hoped the sector would build upon this success in 2008.

"Early indications from our independent members are that Christmas, while late in many areas, was strong," she said. "As one of our members has said, 2007 saw the renaissance of the independent bookselling sector, and this story would seem to be borne out by both new shops opening and sales performance."
Research from Book Marketing Limited last year revealed a 6% increase in independents' volume book sales since 2003, compared to a 3% fall at chain retailers. The BA currently has 1,424 independent members.

Michael Neil, m.d. of wholesaler Bertrams, said he felt more people were opening indies because "they like the idea of being a bookseller". "It's seen as a noble thing to do," he said. "As the chain bookstores have consolidated over the past 18 months, there are opportunities for good local indies to step in. I also think there is a thirst for authenticity with consumers, and shopping at an indie bookstore seems to be part of that."

Early signs that indies will continue to build upon last year's success include Foyles' opening of two new high-profile branches in 2008, as well as South London independent Crockatt & Powell's plans for a second store in west London later this year.
However, the past 12 months have also seen some high-profile losses. The Peak Bookshop in Matlock, Derbyshire went into administration in August, two months after its Chesterfield store closed. And Pan Bookshop in west London announced last month that it would be closing in January after 32 years of trading.

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