High street bookshops need greater support - Streeter

High street bookshops need greater support - Streeter

The economics for booksellers "simply don't work" as they struggle with high costs and low margins, the president of the Booksellers Association has claimed.

Jane Streeter was delivering the introduction at the BA Conference at Kings Place in London this morning (16th May).

She said it was "crucial" publishers and booksellers work together as they sell more books when they cooperate. She said: "We have to decide what we want our trade to look like in the future. We have to sit down together and take a long hard look at where we are and then we have to identify the ways in which we can make things better. All this is only relevant, of course, if we all have the same goal."

As well as cost and margin challenges, Streeter said the supply chain needs to adapt as the digital market evolves and added: "Booksellers need to be seen as real partners in the selling of digital product." She said: "Of course individual booksellers and publishers have differing views when discussing commercial relationships. But from the conversations I have been having with many of you in the past year, it is clear that we all agree that new thinking is needed, as the current commercial model simply isn't giving the high street bookshop the support it needs."

Streeter said many book-buyers are using online for their purchases but use the high street to dictate their purchase decisions. Citing new research from BML, Streeter said for every 100 high street book buyers, a further 40 used high street bookshops for browsing rather than buying. Among heavy book buyers, for every 100 buying from the high street, another 73 are browsing.

Streeter said publishers need to understand the "vital" role retailers play in books' discoverability. She said: "There is real danger for our industry if we continue on the path we are on at the moment. We do have the power to create a better outcome but we have to have a vision."

The tone of this year's conference is "deliberately positive", said Streeter, aiming to remind people of the power of the physical book, focussing on creativity as a commercial strength and thinking about how to grow the market "in new ways in a new world".

Publishers and retailers need to work out how e-books "enhance and not replace" the physical book market and "we need to carve out an indispensable role for bricks and mortar bookshops in selling both formats."

She said: "This is a golden age in many ways. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity and energy around. If we use this moment in our history to share the gains more equally then we can invest in a joint future based on cultural as well as commercial growth."

Blog: The speech in full