Footfall at shops across the UK fell over the Bank Holiday weekend, but several independent bookshops have reported an increase in sales, with more visitors than usual.
Footfall across the UK was down by 4.1% on Saturday (27th August) and Sunday (28th August), according to analysis from retail researchers Springboard, which had predicted a 6.5% increase in footfall at shopping centres, retail parks and high streets.
The company’s Diane Wehrle told the BBC that Bank Holidays were increasingly focused on leisure activities such as eating out. There has also been a shift towards people shopping later in the day, with shopping centre footfall increasing 7.3% between 5pm and 8pm on Saturday, she said.
However, independent bookshops The Bookseller have spoken to said their footfall and sales increased over the Bank Holiday weekend, helped by a strong publishing on offer, students buying university books and customers seeking refuge in bookshops.
Edward Scotland, assistant manager at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, said: “It was a sunny weekend, which would usually mean we’d be quieter, but we were busier than we’ve ever been. A lot of customers were coming in for books for university. Sales were up, too, although I think its important to point out Bath is a very tourist area that can support four bookshops. Sales have been up ever since Brexit, which is the opposite of what we were expecting. We think people see bookshop as a safe haven to escape the horrors of the world.”
Vivienne Banerman, manager at The Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells, also appears to have bucked the national retail trend.
“Our sales were up 16% over the Bank Holiday weekend, and certainly it has not felt any quieter,” she said. “You can never quite tell how the weather is going to affect sales, and we have seen people coming in later and at different times. We have been selling a lot of children’s books this summer, with grandparents buying a lot for their grandchildren. It’s not Harry Potter and the Cursed Child boosting sales for us, we are selling a copy about once every three days, it’s books across the board. We are seeing people coming in later, we call the first hour the day between 9am-10am the ‘golden hour’ because we get a lot of work done as there are fewer customers.”
Carol Peel, assistant manager at Grove Bookshop in Ilkley, said the West Yorkshire town had seen many tourists over the Bank Holiday weekend which had kept sales steady. “Paperback fiction has been selling well – our top seller over the last week was Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks and Exposure by Helen Dunmore,” Peel said. “We are also still selling a lot of The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. We have been noticing people coming in later during the holidays, though, more like 11am rather than 9am.”
However, Vivienne Archer, owner of Newham Bookshop in East London, said she thought footfall was slightly down on Saturday. “August is generally not a great month for us anyway, but sales this time have been helped by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” she said. “It is still selling, really well, and we are selling it for full price, I can’t believe it. After Brexit political books are selling well too. We have sold much more than usual in the last two months.”
Last week, book sales fell 6.1% week on week to just under £24.8m. However, this figure marked a 3% rise on the same week in 2015.