Big news from UK and Eire bookstores
The Bookseller’s Indie Bookshop Christmas Trading Survey reports independent bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland “enjoyed a bumper end to 2018, with ‘excellent’ Christmas sales, and most are looking ahead with optimism.”
Compared to 2017, 53.2% said Christmas sales in 2018 were very good, 27.6% rated sales excellent and 8.5% found sales to be disappointing.
Andy Barr, of one of my favourite bookstores ever, Belgravia Books, in London, said, “There was a very strong range of titles across the board–decent offerings of fiction and non-fiction, and probably the strongest offering we have been able to offer our customers in a good long while. There were no peak bestsellers, Michelle Obama’s Becoming aside, but strong sales across the range and plenty of scope for handselling.”
(Handselling: the practice of promoting books by personal recommendation rather than by publisher-sponsored marketing.)
The business continues to battle against online retailing, although with patchy success. Jo Heygate of Pages of Hackney said, “People tell us they’re making a conscious effort not to go on Amazon and want to support us.” And David Makinson of the Holt Bookshop in Norfolk said, “Good weather helped and many loyal customers were determined to champion independents rather than use Amazon. ‘Use it or lose it’ seems to be a widely-held view.” But not everyone had good weather, and just over 51% of 48 respondents said they encountered supply issues. Combine that with the ability to buy online, and it’s no surprise that Amazon is still doing well in the UK/Eire market.
Nic Bottomley, Booksellers Association president and owner of the delightfully named Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, gave some anecdotal evidence that political and economic turmoil aren’t just good for journalists, they’re good for booksellers, too. “When times are uncertain, it’s worrying for anyone on the high street. But books provide high value per pound… people are always wanting to spend money on books. Books enable you to understand the world and give readers the power to escape it. When Brexit was announced, in our shop we had the highest ever sales, with people wanting to understand the situation.”