Buyers slow to come forward for independent shops

At least 22 independent bookshops are currently for sale in the UK, with the recession, the climate of the bookselling market and the refusal of banks to lend money all being cited as causes for fewer properties exchanging hands.

The bookshops on sale range in price from £10,000 for a book and card shop in Preston to £175,000 for a bookshop in North Yorkshire.

David Mainwaring and his wife Barbara have run Books Plus in Penzance, Cornwall, for nearly 20 years, and have decided to sell up as they approach retirement. Their bookshop has been on the market for eight months.

Mainwaring said he considered the number of shops on sale "very high" and believed there were a variety of reasons. He said: "Number one, nobody is buying, so the number of stores up for sale is increasing; and number two, the recession isn't helping—but it is probably worse for bookshops because of the negative press surrounding the rise of e-books and competition from Amazon, which is going to put off a potential buyer."

Some of the bookshops The Bookseller spoke to have been on the market for several years, including The Guisborough Bookshop in north Yorkshire, owned by Les Conroy, which is on the market for £125,000. Conroy, who has owned the outlet for 30 years, wants to retire. He said: "Thirty people have asked about it, half a dozen have spoken to me, but when it comes down to the crunch they cannot raise the capital. Banks aren't lending money—people are frightened of what is going to happen next year in the economy."

However, a business broker who preferred to remain anonymous said he had sold a bookshop in Scotland after just a month on the market, and said the viability of the individual shop and its local surroundings were also crucial factors in securing a sale. He said: "It's true that it's a tough market out there, but there are a lot of people passionate about physical books, and if you are selling at the right price to the right person, that's all that matters."