Many indies are reporting buoyant Christmas trading, with increases on last year as high as 20%.
Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, whose sales were already up 10% in November, boasted a healthy 20% rise on 2014's December figures this month; while Hungerford Bookshop in West Berkshire quoted a 5% increase and Dulwich Bookshop “a good percentage higher". Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights added it too was “up a bit on last year”.
Alex Milne-White, owner of the Hungerford Bookshop in West Berkshire, said: “As far as indications go we’re doing really well. Both of the weeks so far have been 5% up on last year.
“And we get an extra day [trading] in the week after next, because of the way Christmas falls, which hopefully means another busy day’s trading - so I’m quite optimistic this year."
The most common reason offered for the sales spike is the broader spread of appealing titles encompassing this year’s Christmas offering.
"There’s probably not one standout book,” said Sheila O’Reilly of Dulwich Books. "I think maybe people are coming into the bookshop to browse because it’s a good range.”
Nic Bottomley for Mr B’s Emporium of Delights added: “It’s much more of spread.”
Proving popular are giftable items such as Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting (MacLehose Press); 101 Things To Do Instead of Playing on Your Phone (Short Books Ltd); A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice (Bloomsbury); The Pocket Wine Book 2016 (Mitchell Beazley); and The Seven Brief Lessons of Physics (Allen Lane).
Also selling well in Dulwich are volumes one and two of The Penguin Book of the British Short Story (Penguin Classics), with customers buying the two as a bundle; plus "some good hardback fiction out" Patrick Gale's A Place Called Winter (Tinder Press) and Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling (Doubleday).
Of all those surveyed, all but one credited Bill Bryson as a leader, while several booksellers cited the likes of Elena Ferrante (Story of the Lost Child - Europa Editions), Robert Harris' Dictator (Hutchinson), All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Fourth Estate) - "one of those ‘word of mouth’ things,” said one bookseller - the Ladybird books for grown-ups and We Go to the Gallery (Miriam Ella) as selling particularly well.
Tim West for The Big Green Bookshop, where sales are "bang on" those of last year, said of the latter: "It’s a good story and so much better than the Ladybirds [in my opinion]. I must have sold 20 alone without trying.”
Milne-White said of the adult Ladybird books: “We’ve got most of them. They’re brilliant – we’ve got them on our counter like sweets."
After initially printing 15,000 copies of each title in the Ladybird books for grown-ups series, Penguin Random House now has over one million copies of the eight books in print following what it termed "an overwhelming demand from the public".
Milne-White added: "I wondered if it’s actually the Ladybird Books [boosting trade]. Books Are My Bag campaigns have helped as well to get people shopping local; there’s a growing tide of anti-Amazon feeling, it seems, as people become more aware of their tax dodging.”
Fitting for a charitable time of year, Five Leaves Bookshop's top selling book is its own Over Land, Over Sea (self-published): a poetry book containing 101 poems with all proceeds going to refugee charities, Médecins Sans Frontières, Leicester City of Sanctuary and Nottingham Refugee Forum. The book was produced in the East Midlands by an editorial committee, typesetter and the publisher working free of charge while the initial print costs were covered by a crowd-funding campaign.