These stores are the winners of the first round of the Independent Bookshop of the Year award, picked from 48 nominations in nine regional and country categories. After the toughest year for high street bookselling in memory, they are all worthy champions in their own right.
All nine bookshops shortlisted in this category have been recognised for their extraordinary work in 2020, as champions in the regional and country round of the award. As the judges noted: “Every one of these businesses has done great things in the face of challenges most of us can’t comprehend… they are all worthy winners.”
From an exceptional field, Kent’s Sevenoaks Bookshop, the South-east England category winner, takes the overall prize. The store is now well into its eighth decade, but it won’t have faced a year as tough as 2020. Its small but indefatigable team responded to the challenges of lockdowns, moving to web, phone and e-mail orders during months of closure and dispatching around 3,500 books to loyal customers—many of them personally delivered by foot and bike. Click-and-collect and Bookshop.org added more sales channels. Events moved online too, including book clubs on Facebook and author events on Zoom.
The tumultuous year showed how this and other independent bookshops sit at the heart of their communities’ cultural and social lives. Somehow, Sevenoaks Bookshop ended 2020 in sales growth, having not furloughed a single bookseller. It also emerged into 2021 twice the size it was before the pandemic, having taken over adjacent premises and launched a dedicated children’s area—a sign of great confidence for the future.
“I’m full of praise and wonder for Sevenoaks’ team,” said one British Book Awards judge. “It’s easy to forget how scary things were at the start of the pandemic, and the creativity and fortitude they have shown is amazing,” said another. “To expand at a time when the high street is hunkering down is astounding… the love and enthusiasm for books shines through and inspires us all.”
Congratulations to our Regional and Country Winners!
Burley Fisher BooksWinner: London
Cogito BooksWinner: North of England
Far From the Madding CrowdWInner: Scotland
Five Leaves BookshopWinner: Midlands
Griffin BooksWinner: Wales
Mr B's Emporium of Reading DelightsWinner: South-West England
Red Lion BooksWinner: East England
Sevenoaks BookshopWinner: South-East England
TertuliaWinner: Island of Ireland
Congratulations to our Regional and Country Finalists!
Last year was difficult for the entire trade but indie booksellers were perhaps at the very sharpest end of the pandemic. Yet as we can see by the 48 entries on the Independent Bookshop of the Year regional shortlists, indies tackled lockdown restrictions, an uncertain supply chain and the increased share of a certain e-tailer with vigour, creativity and innovation. These shops shifted their business models no matter if they were venerable, like 134-year-old Sam Read and 95-year-old Village Books, or relative newcomers like 2019 entrants like Tring’s Our Bookshop and The Margate Bookshop.
The bottom line is clear: indies will continue to thrive, no matter what is thrown at them.