Retail Awards: New-century booksellers

<p>It is tempting to say that <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/awards.html">The Bookseller Retail Awards 2007</a> represent a triumph for traditional bookselling, except for the fact that traditional bookselling has changed so radically in recent years. A brilliant bookshop today is much more than a good-looking store with a half-decent range and friendly staff. Online sales, integrated marketing and promotions, events, publicity, non-book products and very often good coffee (or ice cream) all play their part.</p>
<p>Blackwell (Retail Chain of the Year) fought off The Book People (Direct Bookseller of the Year) and Asda (Martina Cole General Retailer of the Year) to win this year&rsquo;s overall crown as Headline Bookselling Company of the Year. The 128-year-old bookseller demonstrates the evolution of the trade perfectly. As well as growing and consolidating its traditional markets&mdash;revenue growth from institutional, corporate and professional is well above market average&mdash;all the elements of its two-year-old recovery plan are working together to create a cracking overall performance. Taken-as-read strengths such as staff knowledge, locally tailored range and regular store refits combine with digital-era developments like integrated instore and online promotions, strong sales of digital OS mapping and the established Blackwell Reward Card&rsquo;s online customer database. In a tough climate, Blackwell is opening new stores and opportunistically tapping markets through its temporary Connect sites. It&rsquo;s a great all-round performance.</p>
<p>Bertram Independent Bookshop of the Year Jaff&eacute; and Neale represents a similar transformation of a business. It is also a great example of the much-vaunted &ldquo;third hub&rdquo; concept: a third place beyond home and work where people come to meet, spend time and indulge in a little light shopping. Accordingly, this Chipping Norton bookshop is also a caf&eacute;, art gallery and homewares store, and has positioned itself at the heart of its local community&mdash;and has indeed re&shy;invigorated that very community. It is no less of a bookseller for being more than a bookseller.</p>
<p>Elsewhere, the awards acknowledge the powerhouse that is &ldquo;Richard &amp; Judy&rdquo;, Amazon&rsquo;s pre-Potter marketing chutzpah and The Book People&rsquo;s indefatigable Ted Smart. But perhaps the last word should go to the nation&rsquo;s top store manager, Waterstone&rsquo;s Chris Laister-Smith, who is profiled in this issue. Great stores under great managers are more vital than ever.</p>