The Booksellers Association is to urge the government to grant bookshops a discount on their business rates, arguing that they are cultural entities which provide "huge benefits" to their communities.
As part of its lobbying for 2018, the BA has said it will be urging the Government to offer booksellers discounted business rates. Such a move would follow in the footsteps of countries such as Italy, which recently revealed it is to introduce tax breaks of up to €20,000 for independents and €10,000 for chain bookshops, in order to stem a spate of closures.
According to the BA, the government has already given a commitment to review its corporate tax and the digital economy paper in response to the body's representations.
Giles Clifton, head of corporate affairs at The BA, told The Bookseller: "The BA has campaigned for business rates reform/relief, both individually and in conjunction with other retailers. The BA Council has now decided the moment is right to extend this representational work to lobby for a specific recognition of booksellers in the business rates system that will allow a concession to be granted to booksellers similar to the concession allowed pubs by their local authority. Pubs with a rateable value under £100,000 are allowed a business rates discount of £1,000 by their local council because of the societal value they bring.
"A recognition of booksellers in the system would not only be positive for booksellers, it would allow a more advantageous and deeper conversation with Government, and help facilitate a greater recognition of our value across our dealings with Government."
In an end-of-year letter to members, Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, said he is "defiantly optimistic" about the year to come, given the success of 2017 which saw BA membership numbers increase.
"For the first time since the Net Book Agreement ceased to operate in 1995, the BA ended up at the end of this year with more independent bookshops in membership than we had at the beginning of 2017," said Godfray. "So three cheers to our members who have worked so hard to adapt to all the changes they have had to face."
Godfray also said that booksellers are "ahead of the curve" when it comes to offering additional services in their shops, rather than just displaying items on the shelves. "Competition against Amazon has forced [booksellers] aeons ago to develop added-value services which the online retailer is unable easily to emulate", he said.
According to Godfray, the bookshop sector has "turned a corner" and booksellers’ fortunes are reversing due to increased support from publishers, consumers returning to print books, and the support of UK politicians. He added that the European Competition Authority is taking "very significant steps" to try and create, a fairer trading environment between the online international businesses that sell books and the physical bookshops.
Godfray concluded: "If Christmas is a key period for you and your business, I hope that you have done okay in a difficult climate for physical retailers. But especially that you have a lovely time over Christmas and the New Year and are able to re-charge your batteries."