Tuesday, March 31, 2015

U.K. Indie Numbers Down, but Signs of Strength

Shelf Awareness

Last year, the number of independent bookstores in the U.K. fell by 48, to 939, according to the Booksellers Association.

"Rising business rates, competition from online booksellers, e-books, greater pressure on people's spare time combined with greater competition in the entertainment marketplace, customers' squeezed budgets and lacklustre high streets have combined to force some bookshops out of business," the Bookseller wrote.

At the same time, the Bookseller noted that some stores opened last year, and others are reporting that business has improved lately.
In one sign of a healthy market, Eleanor Davies, co-owner of Linghams Bookshop, in Heswell, told the magazine that her store, which is for sale, has had "a lot of interest," with 15 people inquiring about it and two "going for it quite hard now." She said sales were down in the first half of 2014, but "from September they have been up every month. Amazon is going on in the background and causing us trouble all the time--we can't get away from that--but we are in the best place financially since we bought the shop. I definitely think it is crucial for shops to diversify into selling cards and gifts in order to do well."

Likewise Matthew Clarke, owner of the Torbay Bookshop in Paignton, Devon, emphasized the importance of adding products and services besides books to attract customers--although book sales continue to be most important in his store. "We bought a Thornton's franchise [selling chocolates] three years ago after [its] shop in our town closed down and we brought the Tourist Information point into our shop after the local council closed the service due to cuts. Both of those things bring people through the door and enable us to upsell on paid-for tourist guides and maps, and so on."

Clarke emphasized that "the majority of our sales by far are still from books and actually book sales are rising as more people come through the door and we become more savvy at what we stock."

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