News

Travel Bookshop to close in two weeks

The Travel Bookshop in west London, which was made famous by the Hugh Grant
film "Notting Hill", is closing down in two weeks' time.

The London shop on Blenheim Crescent was founded 32 years ago and is owned by European Estates Plc, which has been looking for a buyer for the business since May. The bookshop yesterday began its two-week closing down sale, offering 50% off everything in store.

South Korean tourist Sojeong Kim said she had come to visit The Travel Bookshop after seeing it in the film and was shocked at the thought of it closing down. She said: "I am sad no more tourists will be able to visit it anymore."

Monique Quant, a local resident, said she had come with a shopping list to buy 15 books for her and a friend in the closing down sale. She said: "I think it is tragic and unfortunate that the shop is having to close. My friend is even more gutted than I am about it as she shopped here too, and I have been coming here for around six or seven years."

She added: "I think a lot of local bookshops are suffering because of Amazon, more and more people are buying books from there—but I try to support independent ones because soon I worry there will be none left."

European Estates Plc has not responded to recent press enquiries from The Bookseller about the closure.

In May, a spokeswoman for the company said: "His [the owner's] adult children have indicated that they would rather not follow him into the business and so he feels that the continuance of the trade would be best served by selling it on for a new generation to look after one of London's iconic and special bookshops."
 

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sell it on, We wish, couldnt give one away at the moment.
very unfortunate, but the rest of us are soon to follow i fear.

High rents / low margins / high costs / fewer and fewer customers.

unfortunately money is so very tight that the luxury of a book is low down on peoples list of priorities, and full price ones EVEN lower.

12 months ago I asked the lady that works for me if she wanted to buy the business, she gracefully declined, stating "sorry, i work here, and love it, AND AT THE MOMENT GET PAID FOR IT, owning it may mean doing all the above, without the wage!!"

last week i asked her if she wanted it... no charge, free, get a huge discount for the stock, and only pay for said stock if she is making money and then at 0%... she smiled and gracefully declined.
You are right - cant give them away.

This is a beautiful shop – I remember attending a launch there several years back. Also, a group of Japanese tourists asking me the way to the Hugh Grant bookshop. Surely it might be classed as a tourist attraction? Any chance of a grant from the Tourist Board or even the National Lottery?

Why is this story only online today, 24 hours after it was all over the news and Twitter? I read it on a Portugeuse daily newspaper website yesterday morning (the Correio da Manhã)

Can you clarify please, is it closing because it's no longer in profit, or because the owner's children don't want to run it? (Of course, it could be both!)

Is it closing as a travel bookshop or is it just being sold to a new owner as a going concern? I hope it's the latter, but a new owner could do anything with it - an estate agent is most likely, in my experience, or a Tesco Express. Ugh.

This sounds like a sales pitch to me. It'll be "rescued" before the 2 weeks are out. Bookshops are opening all over London, If you cant make a profit out of a famous one in an area like that then there's something seriously wrong with you!

Hi J,

Because we were trying to get hold of the management and find out what happened during the sales process. We did break the story back in May.

Last week James Daunt said he believed physical book shops will NOT survive if they are not good enough. That is actually stating the obvious but what is “good enough”?

I believe that good independent bricks & mortar book shop will continue to attract customers. However, the 3 key success factors for such a store are:

Location, location and location;
Quality of products, i.e. book selection; and
Knowledge and experience of staff.

The threatened closure of The Harbour Bookshop and now the Travel Bookshop demonstrate that, in the case of the former, location is a major factor and in the case of the latter the lack of interest of the next generation to continue means knowledgable and experienced staff will not be available to maintain the quality of selection and service.

For me a very good example of an “independent” retailer of an in-demand product which was very successful in the 1980s and 1990s because of their locations, quality of product selection and knowledge of staff was Oddbins. Essentially, the double whammy of the internet and supermarkets killed Oddbins off – they have lurched from one crisis to another over the last 10 years.

I’m afraid, I see much the same happening to “independent” book shops – they too are being hit by the Internet and by supermarkets and will find it increasingly difficult to attract physical customers and sell sufficient volumes of books to cover their overheads, let alone make money. I wish them luck because they are, and should continue to be, an integral part of our cultural heritage but I fear the days of many hundreds of independent book shops are numbered.

Clearly, the Internet enables an independent bookshop to address the three key success factors, and more, with much lower overheads than operating one or more physical stores.

Books4Spain, which I will be launching in September, will be one of the first online book shops which has been specifically developed as an online “independent” book shop whose objective is to retain the benefits and attractions of traditional independent book shops whilst using technology to offer better choice, an easier way to discover books about Spain, great customer service and, ultimately, to enable our clients to learn more about Spain, its culture and history.

The sophisticated software platform we have developed can be used to create online independent bookshops such as the Travel Bookshop or The Harbour Bookshop and even Books4France and Books4Italy so I'm looking forward to a proliferation of online independent bookshops to challenge the hegemony of Amazon.

Nerd, the sales pitch was in May, and they've been looking for a buyer - unsuccessfully - for three months. There's nothing cynical about trying to stoke up interest in a business that will close unless a buyer is found - but I think that moment has passed for the Travel Bookshop.

That is really frightening. Consumer confidence is just so down now and it is completely intentional.

Would you mind e-mailing me the particulars of the business, or maybe just saying it all here for the benefit of people who may see the real value in what you have?

I do appreciate that things are carefully researched and vetted here. It feels like there is a higher standard for narrative here.

From what I have read as a Library Science student, 50% of all bookstores that stand today are expected to be closed by 2014. Some statements from Waterstone's indicate that they would like to pare down to about 30 stores nationwide. A lot of people are going forward with business plans, as it is the dream, but it is only happening because they are able to secure the initial financing or it is a hobby venture (not to discourage someone going in).

Unfortunately those of us that do want to own and run independent book shops are restricted by the banks. The only way to get funding is to save for years (which just isn't possible for all of us right now) or to go into business with partners who do have the money; if you don't know anyone who can help you out then it just isn't possible. It's a shame that those of us with the experience and passion needed often don't have the money!

Hive - the new online initiative created by Gardners - aims to link up a central key buyer/seller (Gardners), with local independent bookshops to provide an online buying platform for the consumer. The aim (from what I understand) is to create an online retail experience that rivals Amazon et al. in terms of price, and offers consumers an online service that equals the level of convenience that current online book purchasing provides. The beauty of Hive is that the consumer can enjoy all the benefits of online book purchasing whilst still ultimately supporting their local bookshop with their purchase.

Of course, it's hard to know when new initiatives roll out just how successful they will grow to be. So many people out there are eager to voice their love of independent bookshops. However, many of these people are also likely to wander around their local bookshop on a Saturday, breathe in the atmosphere, leaf the pages of the books - then go home and make their purchase online with Amazon. Ultimately, profile, publicity and price will all be key to the Hive programme's success.

Rod Younger, whom I wish the greatest success in his new venture, lists the three prime success criteria for physical bookshops, the third of which is 'knowledge and experience of staff'. Isn't that what's missing online? Customer reviews don't fit that bill, especially as some are written by the authors (I haven't done it myself, but I know people who have).

Banks would be crazy to lend to an independent bookseller start up, given the prospects for the industry, hence why financing is not available.

Look at Waterstones which was bought by a Russian billionaire, with very little competition from other potential buyers, as no one could get finance.

I understand why they refuse capital on start-ups, but it shouldn't be as difficult as it is to find financing for an existing and profitable business. I don't know the particulars of this business, but I was interested in purchasing another recently which I knew was profitable. Such a shame that the banks won't help existing businesses stay open in cases like this where it sounds like the owner just wants to retire.

On the high street, at the present time, most indie businesses would have no value in goodwill etc ; indeed, I would go so far as to say that many businesses would be prepared to pay a heavy "sweetener" to any person bold ()or foolhardy enough to takeover the liabilities on a high street business in most sectors.

In the present climate, any business which requires heavy stock investment is at a serious disadvantage against the internet merchandisers.

If any financial body is prepared to advance money towards an independent high street stockholding business it will only be at very high interest cost granted against a "charge" (mortgage) on readily disposable property.

I received the following comment from the owner by email today, which I am happy to post for clarification:

Thank you for your comments Mr Downer, and as the owner of The Travel Bookshop Ltd I can confirm that you are right and the aptly named Nerd is 101% wrong. Sadly....

Ms Campbell who 'broke' (is she out of Woodward or Bernstein, puh-leeese?) was far more interested in the tattle-side of the story, than the facts. Once a journo, always a journo I suppose, and she wonders why I don't wish to be 'interviewed' by her. 

When I briefed our extraordinarily capable and long suffering manager Julian Mash, this very morning on how to respond to her, I note, now with amazement and not a little disgust, that the real reasons - in any order - Amazon, E-books & Apps (45% of our trade was guide books), new Kensington rates at an astonishing £16,000 pa (that's £800 PER WEEK of turnover to not have a bin emptied), chronic margins and the 800 lb Elephant of the NBA going.....etc etc are barely given daylight in her 'breaking' story..... 

sell it on, We wish, couldnt give one away at the moment.
very unfortunate, but the rest of us are soon to follow i fear.

High rents / low margins / high costs / fewer and fewer customers.

unfortunately money is so very tight that the luxury of a book is low down on peoples list of priorities, and full price ones EVEN lower.

12 months ago I asked the lady that works for me if she wanted to buy the business, she gracefully declined, stating "sorry, i work here, and love it, AND AT THE MOMENT GET PAID FOR IT, owning it may mean doing all the above, without the wage!!"

last week i asked her if she wanted it... no charge, free, get a huge discount for the stock, and only pay for said stock if she is making money and then at 0%... she smiled and gracefully declined.
You are right - cant give them away.

That is really frightening. Consumer confidence is just so down now and it is completely intentional.

Would you mind e-mailing me the particulars of the business, or maybe just saying it all here for the benefit of people who may see the real value in what you have?

This is a beautiful shop – I remember attending a launch there several years back. Also, a group of Japanese tourists asking me the way to the Hugh Grant bookshop. Surely it might be classed as a tourist attraction? Any chance of a grant from the Tourist Board or even the National Lottery?

Why is this story only online today, 24 hours after it was all over the news and Twitter? I read it on a Portugeuse daily newspaper website yesterday morning (the Correio da Manhã)

Hi J,

Because we were trying to get hold of the management and find out what happened during the sales process. We did break the story back in May.

I do appreciate that things are carefully researched and vetted here. It feels like there is a higher standard for narrative here.

Can you clarify please, is it closing because it's no longer in profit, or because the owner's children don't want to run it? (Of course, it could be both!)

Is it closing as a travel bookshop or is it just being sold to a new owner as a going concern? I hope it's the latter, but a new owner could do anything with it - an estate agent is most likely, in my experience, or a Tesco Express. Ugh.

This sounds like a sales pitch to me. It'll be "rescued" before the 2 weeks are out. Bookshops are opening all over London, If you cant make a profit out of a famous one in an area like that then there's something seriously wrong with you!

From what I have read as a Library Science student, 50% of all bookstores that stand today are expected to be closed by 2014. Some statements from Waterstone's indicate that they would like to pare down to about 30 stores nationwide. A lot of people are going forward with business plans, as it is the dream, but it is only happening because they are able to secure the initial financing or it is a hobby venture (not to discourage someone going in).

Last week James Daunt said he believed physical book shops will NOT survive if they are not good enough. That is actually stating the obvious but what is “good enough”?

I believe that good independent bricks & mortar book shop will continue to attract customers. However, the 3 key success factors for such a store are:

Location, location and location;
Quality of products, i.e. book selection; and
Knowledge and experience of staff.

The threatened closure of The Harbour Bookshop and now the Travel Bookshop demonstrate that, in the case of the former, location is a major factor and in the case of the latter the lack of interest of the next generation to continue means knowledgable and experienced staff will not be available to maintain the quality of selection and service.

For me a very good example of an “independent” retailer of an in-demand product which was very successful in the 1980s and 1990s because of their locations, quality of product selection and knowledge of staff was Oddbins. Essentially, the double whammy of the internet and supermarkets killed Oddbins off – they have lurched from one crisis to another over the last 10 years.

I’m afraid, I see much the same happening to “independent” book shops – they too are being hit by the Internet and by supermarkets and will find it increasingly difficult to attract physical customers and sell sufficient volumes of books to cover their overheads, let alone make money. I wish them luck because they are, and should continue to be, an integral part of our cultural heritage but I fear the days of many hundreds of independent book shops are numbered.

Clearly, the Internet enables an independent bookshop to address the three key success factors, and more, with much lower overheads than operating one or more physical stores.

Books4Spain, which I will be launching in September, will be one of the first online book shops which has been specifically developed as an online “independent” book shop whose objective is to retain the benefits and attractions of traditional independent book shops whilst using technology to offer better choice, an easier way to discover books about Spain, great customer service and, ultimately, to enable our clients to learn more about Spain, its culture and history.

The sophisticated software platform we have developed can be used to create online independent bookshops such as the Travel Bookshop or The Harbour Bookshop and even Books4France and Books4Italy so I'm looking forward to a proliferation of online independent bookshops to challenge the hegemony of Amazon.

Nerd, the sales pitch was in May, and they've been looking for a buyer - unsuccessfully - for three months. There's nothing cynical about trying to stoke up interest in a business that will close unless a buyer is found - but I think that moment has passed for the Travel Bookshop.

I received the following comment from the owner by email today, which I am happy to post for clarification:

Thank you for your comments Mr Downer, and as the owner of The Travel Bookshop Ltd I can confirm that you are right and the aptly named Nerd is 101% wrong. Sadly....

Ms Campbell who 'broke' (is she out of Woodward or Bernstein, puh-leeese?) was far more interested in the tattle-side of the story, than the facts. Once a journo, always a journo I suppose, and she wonders why I don't wish to be 'interviewed' by her. 

When I briefed our extraordinarily capable and long suffering manager Julian Mash, this very morning on how to respond to her, I note, now with amazement and not a little disgust, that the real reasons - in any order - Amazon, E-books & Apps (45% of our trade was guide books), new Kensington rates at an astonishing £16,000 pa (that's £800 PER WEEK of turnover to not have a bin emptied), chronic margins and the 800 lb Elephant of the NBA going.....etc etc are barely given daylight in her 'breaking' story..... 

I apologise if my words caused any offense. I can assure you they were borne out of genuine optimism for the independants survival but can see (and did before this post from the owner) that the situation for the Travel bookshop is more complicated given it's particular specialism and as it's fame relies on the name it would be difficult to diversify even if they wanted to.

I also didnt mean to imply a sales pitch was a bad thing.

Nerd (tucking into some humble pie)

Unfortunately those of us that do want to own and run independent book shops are restricted by the banks. The only way to get funding is to save for years (which just isn't possible for all of us right now) or to go into business with partners who do have the money; if you don't know anyone who can help you out then it just isn't possible. It's a shame that those of us with the experience and passion needed often don't have the money!

Banks would be crazy to lend to an independent bookseller start up, given the prospects for the industry, hence why financing is not available.

Look at Waterstones which was bought by a Russian billionaire, with very little competition from other potential buyers, as no one could get finance.

I understand why they refuse capital on start-ups, but it shouldn't be as difficult as it is to find financing for an existing and profitable business. I don't know the particulars of this business, but I was interested in purchasing another recently which I knew was profitable. Such a shame that the banks won't help existing businesses stay open in cases like this where it sounds like the owner just wants to retire.

On the high street, at the present time, most indie businesses would have no value in goodwill etc ; indeed, I would go so far as to say that many businesses would be prepared to pay a heavy "sweetener" to any person bold ()or foolhardy enough to takeover the liabilities on a high street business in most sectors.

In the present climate, any business which requires heavy stock investment is at a serious disadvantage against the internet merchandisers.

If any financial body is prepared to advance money towards an independent high street stockholding business it will only be at very high interest cost granted against a "charge" (mortgage) on readily disposable property.

as i stated in comment 2 above, i offered to give my shop away. finance provided to purchase the stock-for a set amount (excellent discount) repayed monthly. as clive says there isnt any "goodwill" value- so ur paying for physical stock and getting fittings at a fraction.
last year, all costs covered and the wages of the 1 full time staff, just nothing left thereafter. so if you wanted to run it yourself instead of staff it still pays a wage.

as for the stock, serious discount offered.

no takers im afraid, so my town soon will be another without an indie bookshop - in the borough never mind the town.

Hive - the new online initiative created by Gardners - aims to link up a central key buyer/seller (Gardners), with local independent bookshops to provide an online buying platform for the consumer. The aim (from what I understand) is to create an online retail experience that rivals Amazon et al. in terms of price, and offers consumers an online service that equals the level of convenience that current online book purchasing provides. The beauty of Hive is that the consumer can enjoy all the benefits of online book purchasing whilst still ultimately supporting their local bookshop with their purchase.

Of course, it's hard to know when new initiatives roll out just how successful they will grow to be. So many people out there are eager to voice their love of independent bookshops. However, many of these people are also likely to wander around their local bookshop on a Saturday, breathe in the atmosphere, leaf the pages of the books - then go home and make their purchase online with Amazon. Ultimately, profile, publicity and price will all be key to the Hive programme's success.

Rod Younger, whom I wish the greatest success in his new venture, lists the three prime success criteria for physical bookshops, the third of which is 'knowledge and experience of staff'. Isn't that what's missing online? Customer reviews don't fit that bill, especially as some are written by the authors (I haven't done it myself, but I know people who have).