Indie booksellers have reported that Civilised Saturday was a "fantastic success" with many vowing to hold the event again next year.
Booksellers across the country held the inaugural Civilised Saturday-themed day on 28th November as the “antithesis” to Black Friday, a deep-discounting retail event brought over from the US by Amazon, which begins after Thanksgiving. Last year, at least three people were arrested in the UK and police were called to supermarkets amid fears of crowd surges as shoppers tussled to get the best deals.
As a result, the Bookselllers Association encouraged bookshops who couldn’t afford to compete with the heavy discounting of retailers taking part in Black Friday (27th November) to entice customers into their shops with an alternative offer – a more ‘civilised’ experience, by serving them prosecco and playing calming music, for example.
The Edinburgh Bookshop hosted a "jazz-singing butler" and served customers Buck's Fizz and mince pies, while staff dressed in black tie costumes (right).
Marie Moser, owner the shop, said: “The customers were delighted with it, it all went down very well. When we explained the concept to people and they all said ‘what a lovely idea'. It would have been a busy Saturday anyway, but it put a nice feeling onto it for customers.”
She added that suggestions the name of the theme sounded “smug” was to misunderstand the point of the day.
“The point if Civilised Saturday is to say ‘you are out shopping in a busy period but it doesn’t have to be fraught, it can be a nice experience’,” Moser said. “It is a really good thing. It reminds people it is not all about having punch ups. We cannot afford to partake in deep Black Friday promotions, so this is a way we can capitalize on that busy weekend.”
Dulwich Books’ hosted a Santa Claus for children to present their Christmas wish lists to and offered winter pimms to customers. The day also coincided with the bookshop’s annual Winter Fair. As an extra surprise surprise on the day – even to the bookshop’s owner Sheila O’Reilly, Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan turned up in the shop to say hello (below).
O’Reilly explained: “One of the traders around the corner is good friends with Pierce apparently and his wife said he would pop in to say hello and we could have a chat, you know because we are both Irish. He is such a nice is person, absolutely lovely, we talked about Ireland and how Irish people always say they are going to go back home. It was a wonderful surprise and even better that it coincided with Civilised Saturday.”
O’Reilly said that the retail theme was a “fantastic success” and added: “I absolutely think we should have Civilised Saturday again, I thought it was fantastic. It is not an either or option about whether to take part in Black Friday or Civilsed Saturday, you can do both. Our sales were up 6% on the same Saturday last year. Like the Books Are My Bag promotion, it gives us a positive story to tell. We told customers about it earlier in the week and they came back. What it did was make us part of an already busy shopping weekend. Big retailers are talking about Black Friday and we can have our own angle on it,” she said.
“I think indies do have to be careful about the message is put across, but that can easily be done,” she added.
Wenlock Books in Shropshire offered customers a free glass of prosecco while they browsed and a ‘bookmatching’ service. The shop offered 10% off all books on the day, with the most popular items the board game Bug Bingo (£19.95) and signed copies of Carol Ann Duffy’s The Wren Boys (£6.99).
The shop’s Susie Stapleton said: “It was a real joy. Customers were mingling with each other and swapping gift ideas, and they were definitely in the mood to shop. We had a lot of requests for bookmatching – my favourite part of bookselling – and, from a sales point of view, it was extremely successful. It was our best day yet this year and has really kicked off Christmas trading.”
Jasmine Denholm, an apprentice in charge of social media at Wenlock Books, added: “Our customers really loved the idea of Civilised Saturday. I’ve seen some comments suggesting that it is snobbish or a bookselling parody but actually our customers, like us, thought that the whole idea seemed a bit of fun! We had customers of all ages and price points joining us for some enjoyable Christmas shopping.”
The Booksellers Association's Alan Staton said: "Civilised Saturday was a very successful extension to Books Are My Bag and caught the imagination of the booksellers, their customers and the media. Bookshops are constantly innovating to make the shopping experience more satisfying for customers and Civilised Saturday is a perfect example of this -it really helped to remind consumers that visiting a physical bookshop offers the chance to meet like-minded people, discover new books and more than anything, enjoy the pleasurable environment."
Staff and customers at Edinburgh Bookshop enjoy a civilised cup of Buck's Fizz
Many publishers backed Civilised Saturday on social media as well as rolling out Black Friday promotions, with HarperCollins offering 50% off many of its titles to customers, for example.
The wider media has suggested Black Friday drove shoppers online as opposed to shopping in the high streets. Amazon.co.uk revealed that this year was its busiest day ever, as it sold around 86 items per second. Orders were up 40% compared to Black Friday 2014, as more than 7.4m orders were placed with the online retailer this year, compared to 5.5m last year, the retailer said. It began its Black Friday promotions on Monday 23rd November.