New indie bookshop to open in Edinburgh

New indie bookshop to open in Edinburgh

A new independent bookshop is due to open in Edinburgh this summer with owner Jack Clark saying it is the “perfect time” to launch the store. 

The Portobello Bookshop at 46 Portobello High Street, a coastal suburb of Edinburgh, will stock a wide range of genres and around 8,000 titles with plans for a “really special children’s section”. Around 2,000 sq ft of the 3,000 sq ft shop will be dedicated to bookselling with plans for a “vibrant events program”.  

Clark, who has a background in commercial photography and has spent the last six months working at the Shelter bookshop in Stockbridge, was not planning on opening a bookshop but when the premises, which was formerly a fishing tackle shop, came up late last year, he struck a deal.

He told The Bookseller: “It’s an ideal place for a bookshop, as they have a thriving and highly community oriented high street.  I saw a community consultation that was conducted a couple of years ago, and a high number of respondents said that one of the elements missing from the area was a local bookshop, so when this premises became available I thought it was the perfect time and place to open somewhere. 

“Scotland has a really vibrant publishing and bookselling scene now, with some great indie publishers starting in the last few years, and Edinburgh especially has some of my favourite indie bookshops, and we hope to be a valued addition to the scene.

“My girlfriend has 10 years bookselling experience and has been a huge help and very involved in planning the shop.  We’re working with a local design team, Splintr, to create a truly unique space, where we’re aiming to have a vibrant events program and be a valuable addition to the area. 

“I’ve spent the last few months visiting bookshops all over the U.K. from the fantastic Main Street Trading in the Borders, to lovely Lutyens and Rubenstein in Notting Hill, to get inspiration and ideas for our own shop - I’ve also spent a bit too long on Pinterest. I also attended a really useful bookselling course run by the BA and taught by Patrick Neale of Jaffe and Neale in Chipping Norton.” 

With Waterstones opening another bookshop in Edinburgh this spring and indie bookseller Topping & Company to launch “the largest independent bookshop to open in the country for decades” in the city centre this summer, Clark said the reaction from the local community has been positive. 

“The opening of Topping and Waterstones doesn’t worry us at all, we never considered opening in the city centre as we were aware of their plans, but also because Edinburgh itself already has a great selection of excellent indie bookshops, all loved by their patrons.  Portobello is very much its own seaside community, with its own identity and is separate from the city centre,” said Clark. “However currently if you live in Portobello, or indeed other parts of East Lothian, you’d have to take the bus or drive into the city centre to visit a bookshop or attend events.  The reaction we’ve had from locals, and the fact two other bookshops are able to open in the centre of town, only gives us confidence we’re doing the right thing.”

The Portobello Bookshop, which is looking for staff, is scheduled to open in July and will be posting updates on Twitter @PortyBooks. 

The plan for the new bookshop comes after The Booksellers Association reported a second year of growth in its independent bookshop membership, with 15 new shops joining the trade body in 2018.Booksellers Association has reported a second year of growth in its independent bookshop membership, with 15 new shops joining the trade body in 2018. The BA's numbers swelled to 883 independents last year, a 1.7% rise from the 2017 total of 868.

BA m.d. Meryl Halls welcomed the new shop. She said: “We’re always heartened when bookshops open and it’s incredibly positive for the book lovers of Edinburgh to be so spoilt for choice with new and established bookshops. A concentration  of bookshops can create a culture and a landscape where more books are sold by everyone rather than a zero sum game.  In a city of neighbourhoods like Edinburgh the shops are sure to carve out their own niche and create their own clientele.  And I’d expect the wonderful booksellers in the city to collaborate and learn from each other, albeit that you would understand a certain amount of nervousness in the incumbents at the moment.”