While the high street has been struggling amid challenging trading conditions, bookshops seem to be thriving as the festive season approaches. According to the latest research, independent bookshops are bucking the trend by increasing in popularity.
The reason for their success has been linked to the way they can provide great personal service for customers. The fact that Amazon has received some less than favourable press over the past 18 months has also been cited as influencing consumers.
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Beating the slump
Market researchers claim customers are voting with their wallet by making a conscious moral decision to support local independent bookshops, making a “more informed” choice.
Amazon reported its profits for July to September 2019 fell to $2.1 billion, compared with $2.9 billion for the same period in 2018. The online retail giant blamed the 28% decline on the heavy investments it has made to improve deliveries.
The Booksellers’ Association revealed that the number of independent members had grown two years in a row. It was the first time this had happened since records first began in 1995.
Bookshops are fighting back against the general economic slump and their e-commerce competitors, and store owners have their own theories on why they are experiencing a boom.
According to surveys, bookshops have won back some customers who have been disappointed with their online purchases.
One common complaint was that online books had been ordered with large print, but the text had been too small to read, so the bricks and mortar stores had won the customers’ trade instead. Knowledgeable staff can give recommendations as well.
Some independent bookshops have adapted to become a hub in the local community. They provide meeting places for arts and culture events, working with local groups to run workshops, book fairs and other related activities.
Bookshops are culturally important, as the printed word helps to preserve our rich heritage of important writers. Books help keep history alive and seem to appeal to people in a way that the temporary and somewhat “throwaway” nature of the internet can’t manage.
Supporting bookshops at Christmas
People are being encouraged to support their local bookshops when they go Christmas shopping to keep the momentum going. The bookshop staff are always willing to help customers, even those who have the vaguest requests – such as giving a brief outline of the plot of a book they read 25 years ago and expecting the assistant to know what it is!
Almost 130 libraries closed in 2018, meaning 600 have closed since 2010, so independent bookshops have taken over as the community space that many people are missing. Local bookshops are a haven for elderly people, unemployed people and the lonely, as they can browse, chat and even have a coffee in those that have become a community centre.
As the festive season approaches, bookshops are expected to be seasonally busy, as customers search for that special gift for a loved one.
Aside from triumphing over e-commerce shops, this doesn’t fully explain why bookshops have made such a big comeback, when other high street shops have struggled. One school of thought suggests people have emotional links to bookshops.
They remember the books of their childhood and the excitement felt when a new Enid Blyton adventure, or Dr Seuss fantasy, came out. According to some psychologists, this is what distinguishes bookshops from a clothes shop or a supermarket, for example.
Whatever the reason for their new-found success, be kind to your bookseller this Christmas and be thankful they are still going strong in the modern era of tech and online shopping. They are a valuable addition to the high street, and they need your support!
Automatic Access has been instrumental in the refurbishment of the popular bookshop, Waterstones, in Stratford Upon Avon. We provided a new pair of automatic doors for the store to ensure it was easily accessible for people of all ages and mobilities.
For more details of our products and services, give us a call on 0116 2695050.