Christmas in the bookshops

<p><i>We had responses from 50 independent bookshops about Christmas 2009, providing us with trading reports and what they expect from 2010 and the decade ahead. Here are the results in full, with selected comments. Thanks to everyone who contributed!<br />
</i></p>
<p><br />
<br />
<b>Compared with Christmas 2008, sales in 2009 were:</b><br />
<br />
Up &ndash; 54%<br />
Down &ndash; 20%<br />
About the same &ndash; 26%<br />
&nbsp;</p>
<p><b>What particular titles/genres fared the best?</b><br />
<br />
Tim Robinson Muswell Hill Bookshop<br />
Steig Larsson, fiction, hardback non fiction.<br />
<br />
Vanessa Robertson, The Edinburgh Bookshop, Edinburgh<br />
In The Edinburgh Bookshop - hardback fiction, History, Scottish titles, food books that weren't by celeb chefs. In The Children's Bookshop - gift books such as pop-ups, picture flats and book-and-toy sets.<br />
<br />
Lynsey Southern Walter Henry's Bookshop, Bideford<br />
The strongest genres were Humour/gift, fiction, children&rsquo;s. Our best selling titles were - Simon's Cat, Kisses on a Postcard, Wolf Hall, Paw tracks in the Moonlight, The Twilight saga, Nigel Slater's Tender, River Cottage everyday cookbook and DK Lego Pirates &amp; Castles.<br />
<br />
Louise Vance, The Sandwich Bookshop<br />
The more individual and strange the title the better it sold. Customers were looking for the unique and unusual, across all genres.<br />
<br />
Tim Walker, Walkers Bookshops, East Midlands and East Anglia<br />
Very broad range of titles sold this Christmas. Unsurprisingly celeb biogs were poor, but that was largely predicted very early in '09.<br />
<br />
Ian Nicholson Alison's bookshop of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire<br />
&quot;Wolf Hall&quot; great sales, as well as GOOD quality fiction.<br />
<br />
Keith Smith, Warwick Books, Warwickshire<br />
Where's Stig? Stieg Larsson and local books<br />
<br />
Dinah Anderson, Bookshrop, Whitchurch<br />
Wolf Hall, Am I Alone in Thinking, Victorian Farm History &ndash; Very strong. Cookery sales were solid, not celeb ones so much, biography was good, but not celeb based for us.<br />
&nbsp;</p>
<p><b>What surprised you this Christmas?</b><br />
<br />
Peter Donaldson, Red Lion Books, Colchester<br />
That people were generally looking for quality rather than cheapness.<br />
<br />
Joanna De Guia, Victoria Park Books, London<br />
People seemed to have decided to shop local.<br />
<br />
Christine Bridger, Old Hall Bookshop, Brackley<br />
We sold many more book tokens than usual. Possibly because of the snow and bad weather which might have made people send tokens if their plans had to be changed.<br />
<br />
Mark Thornton, Mostly Books, Oxfordshire<br />
I honestly don't think anything surprised us this Christmas. In the past we have been surprised by demand for titles we didn't anticipate, unexpected lulls and rushes, and then the last-minute nature of the marketplace. This year we anticipated most of this - and December went very smoothly.<br />
<br />
Vivian Archer, Newham Bookshop, London<br />
The even deeper discounting from Waterstone's etc. Crazy. Titles which people would pay full price DO NOT need to be discounted, it devalues.<br />
<br />
Eleanor Lowenthal, Pages of Hackney, London<br />
Hard back fiction sales were excellent, I think due to the quality of literary fiction out in hardback.<br />
<br />
Bob Johnston, The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin<br />
The popularity of our 'Staff Picks' section - people obviously love a personal recommendation (which is a great strength for independents!). Poetry sales blew me away - we just couldn't get enough and it wasn't just anthologies.<br />
<br />
Gary Kingdon, Badger Books, Burnley<br />
The even bigger discounts offered from amazon/whsmiths/supermarkets etc. 60 and 75% off<br />
<br />
<b><br />
What were the biggest factors that impacted Christmas trading this year?</b><br />
<br />
Matthew Clarke, Torbay Bookshop, Devon<br />
As with other towns the closure of Woolworths and our local department store left gaps in our High Street (since filled with a '99p Store' and soon 'The Factory Outlet Store'). This was seen as a great opportunity for us to pick up extra sales and new customers.<br />
<br />
Vanessa Robertson, The Edinburgh Bookshop, Edinburgh<br />
The weather in the last few days before Christmas negatively affected trade in The Children's Bookshop, largely because the weather was so vile that people didn't want to bring their children out. In our other shop that didn't seem to be a problem and in fact I think people came to us because it was a preferable option to going into the city centre.<br />
<br />
Eleanor Davies Linghams Bookshop, Heswall<br />
AMAZON, Amazon, Amazon and Amazon. Also the snow made people use....Amazon.<br />
<br />
John Hudson, Fordingbridge Bookshop, Hampshire<br />
Mother nature delivering the worst weather for our busiest five days of the year that we have had in 29 years at the shop; wind, rain, ice, snow, hail - we had it all! But our wonderful customers still battled through.<br />
<br />
Sarah Rees, Cover to Cover, Swansea<br />
Customers wanting to buy local from independent retailers, and we being able to offer an excellent customer service thanks to the wholesalers and some publisher distribution.<br />
<br />
Kevin Ramage, The Watermill, Aberfeldy<br />
Weather - we took 25% of expected on Sunday 20th December - but we did have 20cm of snow on the ground. The usual suspects - internet, supermarkets etc didn't really come up on our radar.<br />
<br />
John Bailey, Derwent Bookshop, Workington Cumbria<br />
Local: Loss of 10 out of 11 bridges into Workington General: weak lead titles. Celeb memoirs well overcooked. No must-have book to drag people in.<br />
<br />
<br />
<b>Were there any problems with supply or availability of titles?</b><br />
<br />
Peter Donaldson, Red Lion Books,<br />
Excellent supply and availability save for a couple of snowbound deliveries,<br />
<br />
Rosamund de la Hey, The Mainstreet Trading Company<br />
Nothing like last year with the Bertrams issues. We had two days on non-delivery 23/24th Dec - due to snow. As ever some titles did go out of stock - Who Wants to be a Poodle by Lauren Child and Shooting Leave by John Ure for example.<br />
<br />
Tim Walker, Walkers Bookshops, East Midlands and East Anglia<br />
I thought that many titles were earlier into reprint this year, possibly a sign of publishers being more cautious, but we weren't out of stock of anything major in the run up to Christmas.<br />
<br />
Peter Tillotson, The Book Case, Hebden Bridge<br />
Apart from delays to delivery caused by the weather, there were very few problems and most titles which reprinted early in the month were back on the shelves in time for the late rush.<br />
<br />
Nic Bottomley, Mr Bs Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath <br />
Generally good until the last week when you always get titles running out.<br />
<br />
Mark Thornton, Mostly Books, Oxfordshire<br />
Best we can remember - particularly after the situation with Bertrams last year. We had very few difficulties with regard to title availability.<br />
<br />
Kevin Ramage, The Watermill, Aberfeldy<br />
None that affected us. Wholesalers (and their couriers) all did a great job.<br />
<br />
Sally Johnson, Caxton Books &amp; Gallery, Essex<br />
A little - due to the snow a couple of deliveries were delayed, but still made it in time for Xmas<br />
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<br />
<b>Would you like to say anything else about Christmas 2009, or the general state of bookselling?</b><br />
<br />
Mandy Vere, News From Nowhere, Liverpool <br />
With the demise of Borders, the book trade and the BA need to prioritise independents, and lobby the Culture Secretary to provide support e.g. start-up grants and rates reductions (in Liverpool we get rates reduction as a not-for-profit co-op - how about supporting co-ops?). 100 new independents would re-energise the book trade far more than another chain of 100 shops. Independents are more diverse, dynamic and put much more work in, but it is very hard to afford to be on a high st (which is where we need to be). It's time British booksellers were recognised as a cultural asset! And can we not kick the supermarkets out of the BA? They have done so much harm to genuine bookshops!<br />
<br />
Sheridan Swinson, Aardvark Books, Brampton Bryan<br />
Continued diminishing of the prices.<br />
<br />
Jane Latimer, Latimer Books, Kelso<br />
This was only our second Christmas but Borders collapsing just before Christmas did not send out a good message.<br />
<br />
Lynsey Southern, Walter Henry's Bookshop, Bideford<br />
Christmas 2009 has been relatively strong despite the economic climate. This year I have had to be much more ruthless in where I purchase my books from. This doesn't just go for Christmas, but across the year.<br />
<br />
Louise Vance, The Sandwich Bookshop<br />
The chains made a mockery of the discounts because they attacked the very heart of what we offer as independents.<br />
<br />
Harry Wainwright, The Oldfield Park Bookshop, Bath<br />
Borders closing was a shock, and one feels terribly for the booksellers. Going forward, you need to be either massive or tiny to survive.<br />
<br />
Alex Milne-White, The Hungerford Bookshop, Berkshire<br />
It seems clear that people value books that have been handpicked with care, and booksellers that are passionate and knowledgeable. Customers are telling us how disenfranchised they are with the (remaining) chains. <br />
<br />
Ian Nicholson Alison&rsquo;s bookshop of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire<br />
The BA catalogue choice was poor with one or two really strange selections<br />
<br />
Donald Grant, Kay's Bookshop, Edinburgh Telephone<br />
In general 2009 held up well against 2008 and would have been better had it not been for the poor weather towards the end of the period. Independent bookselling overall is buoyant.<br />
<br />
<b><br />
How optimistic are you about 2010?</b><br />
<br />
Tim Robinson, Muswell Hill Bookshop, London<br />
It's going to be an interesting year.<br />
<br />
Keith Smith, Warwick Books, Warwickshire<br />
Reasonably optimistic, although we were disappointed to see Borders go..we want a strong high street book trade. I am seriously considering giving up my membership of the BA because they are happy to have supermarkets as members.<br />
<br />
Sheila O'Reilly, Dulwich Books, London<br />
It is hard to believe that 2010 will be significantly different from 2009 or indeed 2008. If we benefit from some quality publishing and stick to our guns as professional booksellers we will get by and even prosper.<br />
<br />
Tim West, Big Green Bookshop, London<br />
Very. Extremely. Oh yes we are genuinely optimistic.<br />
<br />
Elaine Silverwod, SilverDell of Kirkham, Lancashire<br />
I am fairly optimistic. I think we have ridden the worst and are even busier holding events.<br />
<br />
Bob Johnston The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin<br />
Fluctuating optimistic! We'll be here in 12 months time but it's going to be tough. There will continue to be a good market for printed books but e-readers and e-book downloads will begin to make an impact.<br />
<br />
Gary Kingdon, Badger Books, Burnley<br />
There is a light still on at the end of the tunnel but it isn&rsquo;t as bright as it was.<br />
<br />
Andrew Cant, Simply Books, Stockport<br />
Very . . . it&rsquo;s the only frame of mind that works!!!<br />
<br />
<br />
<b>How do you see the business changes over the next decade? What are the main threats and opportunities?</b><br />
<br />
Rosamund de la Hey, The Mainstreet Trading Company<br />
Being in a rural location, the internet is certainly our main competitor, this is only likely to increase over time. However, the more we interact with our customers both in store and online, the more they will come back. <br />
<br />
Bev Tankard, The Bargain Bookshop, Chingford<br />
The necessity of selling non-book items and worrying about what we should be doing about electronic readers.<br />
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Julia Kingsford, Foyles, London<br />
As to threats, rising operating costs vs static bookselling prices, the potential threat of VAT being added to books and the implications of digitisation are all going to have an effect on booksellers, not just independents. But there are also opportunities in each of these threats as well as in building ever stronger customer relationships through technology and more fully integrating our on &amp; offline offer.<br />
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John Hudson, Fordingbridge Bookshop, Hampshire<br />
M ore customers are returning to &quot;proper bookshops&quot; where service (knowledge, range and speed of delivery) are moving further ahead of the &quot;variety stores&quot; selling books. Independents are appreciated and supported by more and more discerning book buyers.<br />
<br />
Melanie Carroll, Unicorn Tree Books, Lincoln<br />
Internet - both threat and opportunity. (if you can't beat them use them: marketplace &amp; ashops etc). Social networking, blogs etc are a great opportunity for networking and growing business/promotion.<br />
<br />
Liz Howard, Curiosity Bookshop, Runcorn<br />
As we own the building we may have to find other products to sell if the book trade continues to undermine the ability of Independents to specialise as booksellers, or even rent out the building if this is more profitable than trying to compete with Supermarket prices.<br />
<br />
John Bailey, Derwent Bookshop, Workington Cumbria<br />
Turnover will continue to decline. Threats include digital books, supermarkets and the internet. Younger generation is screen-friendly and print averse. Only opportunity is to be community centred; selling local books, locally published.<br />
<br />
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