BA's Walker calls for 'Civilised Saturday'

BA's Walker calls for 'Civilised Saturday'

The Bookseller Association's president has encouraged booksellers to launch the antithesis of Black Friday - Civilised Saturday - to compete with the consumer rush on goods this year.

Giving the president's address at the BA's annual conference this morning (21st September), Tim Walker, owner of Walker's Bookshops, called on booksellers to create an event to mark "Civilised Saturday" on the 28th November - the Saturday after the last pay day before Christmas and the day after Black Friday.

Black Friday originated in the US in the early 2000s as the day retailers offered deep discounts on goods after Thanksgiving. Amazon brought it over to the UK in 2011 and the sales extravaganza has been growing in the UK ever since - reaching peak penetration in the public consciousness last year, with widespread media coverage of the event which saw some customers squabbling over electrical goods in retailers like Asda.

Walker said the third industry-wide Books Are My Bag promotion will take place from 8th-10th October this year but bookshops need a hook to entice customers into stores nearer Christmas too. "So, could Civilised Saturday on 28th November be the answer?" he asked.

"Undoubtedly Black Friday will create another media storm this year with pictures on all of the news channels of people fighting each other for flat screen TVs. It cheekily and cleverly uses the inevitable publicity and turns it into a positive and PR-friendly opportunity for bookshops.

"What you do on Civilised Saturday is up to you. It could just be serving tea and cakes in the afternoon or maybe by having an invitation-only event with prossecco, canapes and a string quartet in the corner. But it gives you the opportunity to give out invitations on October 10th to bring people in again at the end of November."

Walker also revealed a new author had designed a BAMB bag - adult colouring book author Johanna Basford. She will join artist Grayson Perry and Lauren Child in designing this year's bags to give out to customers.

Walker also used his conference address to draw on the BA's work over the last year in lobbying the UK and European competition authorities over Amazon's dominance of the book market. 

In June this year, the European Commission revealed it had launched a probe into the way Amazon distributes e-books and its relationship with publishers, particularly focusing on contract clauses that "require publishers to inform Amazon about more favourable or alternative terms offered to Amazon's competitors” otherwise known as ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) clauses. 

The BA put a dossier of information together after surveying its members and publishers for their views on Amazon's business practices, receiving 284 responses from booksellers and 57 replies from publishers. 

Walker described the work as "the biggest lobbying process the BA has ever undertaken" and said the organisation now believed the EC should widen its investigation to include Amazon's dominance in the print market as well.

"I believe that Amazon's perceived dominance of the book market here in the UK harms consumer choice and its huge power is bad for publishers, bad for authors, bad for bookshops and ultimately that Amazon's dominant position may be bad for book buyers and readers," he said. 

"I also believe that some of Amazon's business practices could be construed as anti-competitive and I am delighted that the European Commission's Competitive Directorate has decided to launch its own investigation into Amazon's activities in the e-book market.

"It is our view that this investigation should be widened still further to look at possible anti-competitive practices in both the e-book and paperbook market  and the BA is pressing towards this goal."

The BA Conference is taking place at the University of Warwick.