Chronicle of a death foretold

<p>In January the iconic Pan Bookshop on London's Fulham Road shut its doors for the last time, after some 32 years in business.<br />
<br />
Positioned in one of London's wealthiest areas, with a huge and very loyal customer base, regularly busy, even at nine at night on a wet Saturday, it was a shop that surely did not need to close. These were just some of the messages of support we received from the hundreds of customers who wanted us to continue trading:</p>
<ul>
<li>&quot;When we found out Pan was to close, I told my husband we'd have to move; but where?&quot;</li>
<li>&quot;If the staff do move to another location, please do let me know, as I will go anywhere in London to any bookstore they are running.&quot;</li>
<li>&quot;It will be like losing an old friend&hellip; What can we do to save this wonderful asset?&quot;</li>
</ul>
<p>Certainly, with dedicated staff, a great manager, and serious potential benefactors, surely we could have reversed any slide in our trading figures.<br />
<br />
But Macmillan, the owners of this otherwise independent bookshop, felt differently. The shop's staff were not given the chance - and the owners were apparently unwilling - to try to save the business.<br />
<br />
In the final days, as price cuts fuelled the emptying of the shelves, my own thoughts coalesced into more concrete conclusions that I hope could help any independent bookshop to avoid a similar fate. So the key lesson for any indie is: be prepared and willing to adapt, however secure the business seems. Don't wait until doom is knocking at the door.<br />
<br />
In the threatening Amazon age of punitive rents and high street homogenisation, concrete practical measures to forestall any threat of closure must become a vital element in every indie's business plan.<br />
<br />
Like what? Analyse what it is that makes your great independent bookshop so special for its community and make sure your bookshop delivers:</p>
<ul>
<li><span id="1204022327332S" style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span>an attractive space, that customers can feel they 'own';</li>
<li>a place with room to breathe, for book signings, events and kids to play;</li>
<li>a place where browsing means something, with signed first editions, small imprints and little known publishers to be discovered;</li>
<li>a shop where a customer can come in with a vague idea of a book they're not sure even exists, ask about it and be told: 'Oh yes, we have a copy right here';</li>
<li>a destination shop ideally with a caf&eacute;, long opening hours, a place to meet friends.</li>
</ul>
<p>Obvious, yes, but don't add complacency to the list. Many good indies already deliver much of this menu, with excellent service. As did the Pan Bookshop, and it could quickly have adapted to incorporate more goodies. So why didn't it?<br />
<br />
In the <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/48254-macmillan-to-close-pan-bookshop.... release announcing the closure of the shop, just three months ago</a>, Macmillan said it was in discussions with a potential new tenant. Yet when I walked past the abandoned shop yesterday, a large sign proclaimed: &quot;Valuable shop lease for sale&quot;.<br />
<br />
The truly valuable shop, beloved by authors and readers, has gone; leaving nothing but a commercially valuable site. If a major publishing conglomerate had dared to consult its staff, couldn't the Pan booksellers have preserved far more than their own jobs and saved a real cultural asset for their community? Could the dedicated staff and customers have saved it? In my next blog I'll explore exactly what we could have done.</p>
<p>Watch this space.</p>
<p><span style="display: none;" id="1204022410907E">&nbsp;</span></p>