The Booksellers Association (BA) has revealed it will not run a centralised variation of Civilised Saturday in 2018 following feedback with its members.
The event first ran in 2015 as the antithesis to Black Friday, which falls on the day after Thansksgiving in the US (27th November) and encourages retailers to offer massive discounts on products. In response, the BA coordinated a Civilised Saturday, with events and discounts to attract people into bookshops, which last year morphed into ‘Saturday Sanctuary’.
Typical events included Prosecco and cake, jazz-singing butlers and bookmatching (in 2015), as well as wrapping services and hygge-inspired features (in 2016), while last year stores offered hand massages and yoga sessions.
The BA told The Bookseller that the organisation would now focus on the Books Are My Bag Reader Awards (BAMB), the results of which are announced on 13th November.
Emma Bradshaw, head of campaigns at the BA, said: “In 2018, based on feedback from our members, we’re focusing on the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards as the main BAMB event during the busy pre-Christmas season. We won’t be running Civilised Saturday as a centralised campaign, but we look forward to seeing the events and activities booksellers create on the day.”
Many of the shops had described the scheme a success but it had also been plagued with accusations of elitism. In his Bookseller blog entitled ‘#CivilisedSaturday? Publishing beyond parody’, Nick Coveney wrote: “Now the question is, are we in 2015 or extras in a "Downton Abbey" Christmas special? My initial reaction at reading this news was to cringe, eye-roll and choke back a laugh... not because I don’t see the need for independents and smaller retailers to emphasise the virtues of hand-selling and make an event of it, but because of that awfully cultured name for it… For an industry increasingly notorious for its cosseted cultural snobbery, is Civilised Saturday a wise branding exercise?"
Booksellers who spoke to The Bookseller agreed with the BA’s decision not to hold a centralised campaign. “BAMB is so successful and so many people in the trade are behind it and support it that it is essential to ensure longevity to the campaign,” former bookseller Sheila O'Reilly said. “It's also much better to concentrate resources into a campaign that every bookshop is taking part in and is supported by publishers throughout the UK and Ireland.”
“I think Civilised Saturday had run its course and in truth the Black Friday of online retailing appears to be now a month long pre-Christmas sale that surely must be eating into their bottom line.”
Nic Bottomley, president of the BA and co-owner of Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, said he believed Civilised Saturday was originally conceived as a one-year event. “Certainly the BAMB Reader Awards seem to be a stronger focus point to rally around at this time of year given they’re all about high street bookshops championing, discovering and recommending books and authors which is what November and December are all about for all of us.”
However, Bookish owner Emma Corfield-Walters said she would hold Civilised Saturday in her shop in Crickhowell, Wales, with prosecco and harp accompaniment because it had gone so well in previous years.