Indie booksellers have focused on the importance of the high street in their festive offers, with West End Lane Books in London’s West Hampstead appearing alongside other retailers in Visa’s Christmas advert. Themed around the hashtag #KeepItLocalThisChristmas, it is Visa’s first Christmas campaign in the UK in its 60-year history. Visa has also sponsored the Great British High Street Awards this year for the first time. The advert has been viewed around 50,000 times on YouTube already.
Also heralding the "shop local" theme is Bookish in Crickhowell in Powys, Wales. Owner Emma Corfield-Walters said that while she was reluctant to run Christmas-themed promotions, she has joined with the Cabinet Office and the Welsh Assembly to create videos celebrating the high street, endorsing the benefits of shopping on the high street. "You can’t just say, ‘Use it or lose it’; you can’t just sit behind the till," she said. "I think people are starting to realise that if they shop locally it will benefit them—it is just how we publicise the benefits [of doing so]."
Marie Moser, owner of The Edinburgh Bookshop, recently stepped into the film-maker’s chair for a more innovative way of suggesting Christmas picks. "We have a new YouTube channel that we started a few months ago. We’ve been putting up videos recommending books that would be good for presents," she said. "We’ve also started counting down the 30 days to Christmas online with a different book recommendation each day."
The bookshop has started donating books to the local food bank and will continue into the New Year, as "we think this is a very important thing and not just for Christmas", Moser said. It has also raffled books to raise funds for children’s charity Mission Christmas, and is encouraging customers to buy books for children being helped by the charity.
Author and illustrator Alex T Smith painted a mouse with a Christmas card in the shop, with the store being one of many to back his How Winston Delivered Christmas (Pan Macmillan). The book also features on The Mainstreet Trading Company’s "books of the year" flyer. Smith also visited Far From the Madding Crowd in West Lothian, Scotland—owner Sally Pattle told The Bookseller: "It was a huge amount of fun creating the window and Alex came in
to do a stock signing, which should really help boost sales."
Far From the Madding Crowd also created a window display inspired by Shirley Hughes’ Snow in the Garden, using decorations featured in the book, and will offer "bespoke book bundles"—for which customers select a genre and the shop chooses three or five titles in it to be gift-wrapped and posted anywhere in the UK. An "exclusive, guided" whisky tasting with author Dominic Roskrow on 12th December will offer "an ideal way to get into the Christmas spirit," Pattle joked.
Many of the independent retailers who spoke to The Bookseller cited events as a sure-fire way to bring in the crowds over the festive period, including Primrose Hill Books in north London, which is to celebrate its local authors (including Lauren Child and Mary Portas) on 5th December. Daniel Johns, manager of Padstow Bookseller, Cornwall, said the store would participate in the town’s Christmas festival (6th–10th December), which draws 60,000 people to the town.
Aiming high street
Meanwhile, Drake–The Bookshop in Stockton, County Durham, is promoting the power of the personal through its Hand Picked Books subscription. Co-owner Richard Drake echoed the call for keeping things local. "This needs to be the way forward as far as we are concerned. People need to realise there is a direct correlation between them shopping online and their high streets being ghost towns," he said.
Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath is also focusing on the importance of personal recommendations. "We hand-pick all the books in [our Christmas catalogue] and it covers all genres and all of those titles will be 10% off in our shop," co-owner Nic Bottomley told The Bookseller. The store is also launching a pop-up Christmas room in what will be part of the new, expanded shop following a crowdfunding campaign that pulled in £64,000 last month.
Finally, the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury, central London, has returned to a more traditional look this year following last Christmas’ aesthetic of pink flamingos and golden pineapples. The Bloomsbury-based store’s window boasts a line of antique gold and William Morris-print paperchains, which was created over the course of a day by a bookseller. The shop will also have a weekly late opening in the run-up to Christmas for more "relaxed shopping", with wine, discounts and festive treats from the adjoining cake shop.