Customers move to support high street

Customers move to support high street

Customer sentiment towards the high street helped independent bookshops in the final weeks of the year, as the well-publicised Mary Portas report and the Bookseller Association's IndieBound scheme highlighted the impact of consumers' buying decisions on their local communities.

Booksellers spoken to as part of The Bookseller's Christmas Trading Survey said they had witnessed a change in mood in the run-up to Christmas. Sarah Donaldson from Red Lion Books said: "People paid attention to ‘save your high street' and local independents' campaigns. It was a significant factor in Christmas being better than we'd expected."

Harry Wainright from Oldfield Park Bookshop said: "Over Christmas people consciously tried to support us."

Sue Steel from Simply Books said the BA's promotional material advising customers why they should shop locally "made a difference" to consumers. Paul Sweetman from City Books said: "People don't want to see money going to Tesco or Amazon if they can help it."

The increased interest in the high street helped lift the mood of many independents spoken to as part of the survey; the majority were optimistic about their businesses going forward.

But not all were positive. Judith Crawford from Badger Books, Burnley, said the shop was down 50% year on year in comparison to last Christmas.

She said: "It is not a good picture. Over the past three successive Christmas' we have had declining sales—not a good indicator of the future. Our threats are the internet, supermarkets and consumers' shrinking budgets.

"People don't have disposable income . . . if incomes are shrinking, their priorities are focused on more essential things like heating—and the pre-Christmas discounting was unprecedented this year." 

Meanwhile Foyles has reported a good Christmas due to a large range of titles, with sales up 20% in the December weeks before Christmas.

From 1st-24th December, the mini-chain saw its website and e-book sales increase by 67% and sales at the Royal Festival Hall branch sales were up by 35%. St Pancras also reported strong Christmas trading with sales up 10%. The Westfield Stratford City bookshop, opened in November, was described as a "star performer", with higher sales in education, business and language titles along with bestsellers.

Foyles said it "refrained" from discounting hardback books like the Steve Jobs’ biography, became a bestseller at the Westfield White City branch.

However, Foyles flagship London Charing Cross store saw a 6% drop in sales, which the bookshop chain’s c.e.o Sam Husain blamed on continuing road works on Tottenham Court Road.

He said: "We are happy with our Christmas trading, although figures could have been stronger were it not for the handicap of the Tottenham Court Road underground station development. Range has always been our strength and the lack of runaway bestsellers enabled us to sell larger numbers of an even wider range of titles than usual."