Godfray hails bookselling entrepreneurship in 'challenging' year

Godfray hails bookselling entrepreneurship in 'challenging' year

The Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray has said it has been "really heartening" to see the creativity and entrepreneurship of booksellers in 2015, with industry sales figures bucking the high street footfall trends.

But independent booksellers remain under pressure, with the number in membership with the Booksellers Association falling to 895 in November, he revealed in an end-of-year review letter emailed to contacts.

Godfray called the latest drop in indie numbers, down 31 bookshops in the first 11 months of 2015, "deeply depressing", saying the main reasons were competition from Amazon and business rates. 

However he pointed out that the rate of decline is slowing. In 2014, nearly 50 independent bookshops closed. 2013 was a watershed year, with numbers falling below 1,000 for the first time.

In overall sales, Godfray highlighted the 6% rise in Total Book Market figures from Nielsen in the first 51 weeks of the year, compared with a 5% decrease in high street footfall in the UK in 2015, according to  research company Springboard.

"Christmas trading has been helped by some wonderful books that booksellers could really get behind this year, and also by the BA/PA’s Books Are My Bag campaign (30% sales increase;  22% footfall increase) and by the new initiative Civilised Saturday, by the BA’s Christmas Books Catalogue, by the inaugural Academic Book Week, and by National Book Tokens promoting books as wonderful presents," Godfray said. "Our thanks to our authors and publishing colleagues for producing such a great range of titles and for all the support they have given to bookshops in 2015."

He added: "It wasn’t too long ago that pundits were saying that printed books and bookshops were on the way out.  This is now absolutely not the case.  It has been really heartening to see booksellers showing such entrepreneurship and creativity in extremely challenging trading conditions – not just the independents but in our leading specialist high street and academic booksellers, Waterstones and Blackwells."

Among other highlights picked out by Godfray was Batch, which "had its best year ever", and Book Tokens, which has had "an excellent December".

However Godfray also highlighted the current challenges posed by the difficulties of competing in the e-books market, with Amazon taking an estimated 90% share, saying the Booksellers Association had sent "a 300 page submission to the Competition & Markets Authority, and to DG Competition in Brussels, reflecting the views expressed by individual booksellers and publishers by means of completing an anonymous BA questionnaire."

The European Commission launched an investigation into Amazon's e-book distribution in June.

"We hope that all of our work will lead to an improved trading environment in 2016," Godfray concluded.

Independents are invited to complete The Bookseller's annual Christmas trading survey here; findings will be published in January.