In a hugely challenging year for retail, these varied businesses — a high street bookseller, an internet retailer, a mixed multiple and a couple of supermarkets — showed there were still plenty of good ways to get books into the hands of readers. After keeping supply chains and sales moving amid so much turmoil, all will be hoping for a much smoother 2021.
The Book Retailer of the Year category is usually the preserve of the big chains, but after an unprecedented year for bookselling it is an indie, Moon Lane, that takes the award for 2021.
Adding the prize to the title of Children’s Bookseller of the Year), it was one of so many indies not just surviving but thriving in 2020. Its three shops rose brilliantly to the myriad challenges of lockdown, shoring up sales through home deliveries and using the extra time on its hands to develop a bright online personality, including via its revamped website, social media and a popular new Moon Lane TV channel on YouTube. “The resilience and innovation in the face of huge obstacles just blows you away… the small team achieved so much,” said the British Book Awards judges.
They also saw Moon Lane as an exemplar of independent booksellers’ values: committed to its communities and passionate about making books accessible to everyone. The loyalty that this approach has generated over the years became apparent in the support the business received from so many parents and children over 2020, when it was most needed. The year showed that while big retailers have resources to fall back on during difficult times, they can never match independents for agility, creativity or public goodwill.
Having ridden out the pandemic, you sense there is more to come from Moon Lane under its energetic founder Tamara Macfarlane, both commercially and philanthropically. Having agreed a first franchise opening in Nanjing in China, it might even become not just a national brand, but an international one. “The scale of ambition for a business of this size is amazing,” said the judges. “Moon Lane is much more than just a bookseller—it’s a force for good.”
A Great Read
WH Smith High Street