Last updated: May 2013
The campaign to keep books on the high street
The Keep Books on the High Street campaign began 18 months ago as a means of starting conversations with consumers, government, the media, and within the book industry about how important independent retailers and bookshops are to UK high streets, as community hubs that bring books and readers together.
In the US, they call it the ’10 per cent Shift’. If consumers shifted just 10 per cent of their current online shopping back onto the high street, it would make the most colossal difference to local traders and the health and diversity of local high streets
In the UK, the campaign got a particularly big boost just before Christmas following revelations of Amazon’s tax avoidance. So we took the opportunity to reinforce that, through our ‘We Pay Our Taxes’ campaign. We created some striking red point-of-sale materials for independent booksellers to display in their shops to encourage customers to choose to shop at their local bookshop. The idea was triggered by Kew Bookshop which started the ball rolling with a ‘think before you click’ poster in their window.
The need for bookshops
Recent statistics released by Bowker Market Research (BMR) UK and research company Enders Analysis prove that no matter where consumers buy their books or in what format, bookshops are crucial to the discovery of those books and to the selection of them.
BMR gauged the value that bookshops bring to the industry through promoting discoverability at approximately £450m last year, while Enders Analysis estimates that ‘serendipity and discovery’ generate as much as two-thirds of UK general book sales, much of which is down to bookshops.
Lobbying of the government continues to be key to the campaign too. While we welcome the measures in the UK Budget 2013 that will help some small book selling businesses, we are very disappointed that the Chancellor has ignored our plea for a business rates freeze and is going ahead with a third successive business rates rise.
For us, this would have been of greater help than any of the other measures for hard pressed bookshops. We continue to lobby the government to review the way business rates are calculated and set as soon as possible to provide more consistency and fairness.
What has been gratifying about our campaign is that it’s caught the zeitgeist perfectly – our members are articulate, they are engaged and they are deeply embedded in their communities, and they are now rallying their resources to make sure that their customers, their local councillors and their local media know what’s at stake.
Independent Booksellers Week takes place between 29th June and 6th July, (IBW). This brings together bookshops, authors and readers for a series of exciting in-store events.
To check out your local bookshop activity during IBW, check out www.independentbooksellersweek.org.uk
by Meryl Halls, Head of Membership Services, Booksellers Association