Are you helping independent book sellers to survive?
Do you shop with your local independent book sellers? Or do you go online or to a larger retailer where you can get new releases for less? You wouldn’t be alone. In the last twenty years around a thousand independent book shops have closed down, struggling to compete in a market where supermarkets use the latest big releases as a loss leader to entice customers through their doors.
However, it looks as if the tide might be starting to turn. This year, figures from the Booksellers Association showed that the number of independent book sellers in the UK had grown for the first time since 1995. They only added one to their number but it’s great to see some growth for a change.
It got me wondering what’s happening to cause the change and what we can do to keep it going.
Booksellers are changing
The independent book shops that are surviving have realised that they can’t compete on the same terms as the bigger sellers. They’re starting to think differently. Obviously, I think a book and a cup of coffee are the perfect partnership and we’ve seen books and coffee being sold together for a long time. However some independent sellers are adding alcohol licences into the mix. They’re selling beer with the books and getting phenomenal sales. Maybe I should be teaming up with a local brewery too?
I’ve noticed a real resurgence in people wanting physical books. EBooks are convenient but for me there’s nothing like the feel (and smell) of a real book. It seems that I’m not alone. Lots of independent book sellers are attracting customers who enjoy being in a book shop. They love the feel of it and the fact that they get individual customer service.
That’s not to say that people don’t still want the convenience of the internet. I’ve found that my customers like being able to order online knowing that they’ll get a book based on a personal recommendation.
Customers want something different
It’s not just about the customer service either. Many independent shops have stopped stocking the exciting new releases that mainstream sellers are focusing on. The end of the Net Book Agreement in 1997 meant that larger retailers were able to buy in bulk and offer big discounts. The latest instalment of Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ series was released last October and many independent book shops didn’t stock it. The RRP was £20 but larger chains were offering discounts of up to 50%.
Instead, independent book sellers are focusing on offering something different. Sheila King of Chapters in Stafford, featured the Grinch in her Christmas display last year. The display attracted attention and people came to her because the larger sellers simply weren’t stocking the book.
There are still challenges
The future is looking brighter but there are still challenges to be faced. Business rates and commercial rents are rising and there’s still a lot of Brexit related uncertainty.
Despite all that, booksellers are finding innovative ways to survive. There’s even been talk of independent book sellers banding together to negotiate bulk discounts from publishers in the future.
My challenge for you
It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. In the meantime, I have a challenge for you. Will you support your local independent book seller and only buy from them for the next month? You can start from your next buy if that makes it easier!
If you accept the challenge get in touch and let me know how it goes!