The winners of the regional and country round of the Independent Bookshop of the Year Award have been announced, with nine shops in contention for an overall prize of £5,000.
The shortlist of nine shops features new and long-established bookshops, a sign of the resilience of independent bookselling in 2019: a tough year for the high street. The list was whittled down from a record 49 nominations from across the UK and Ireland. The winner of the main prize will be awarded a £5,000 cheque from sponsor Gardners Books.
Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller managing editor and chair of the Independent Bookshop of the Year judges, said: “The independent bookshops that have won our regional and country categories are those that have not only survived but thrived in the tough trading conditions of today's high street. There are big differences in terms of the customer bases they serve, but the through-line between them all is that they are suffused with energy, innovation and are true hubs of their communities.”
The regional and country winners will now be in contention for the overall Independent Bookshop of the Year Award, to be announced at the British Book Awards, a.k.a. The Nibbles, on 29th June 2020.
The nine bookshops are:
Book-ish in Crickhowell is the Wales category winner for a second year in a row. In 2019, it had a record year, during which it ran its own literary festival, hosted numerous book clubs and local groups, and launched a book subscription service. “It exemplifies community—home from home,” said one customer.
BrOOK’S in Pinner is the London category winner. Launched in 2018, it is a thoroughly modern retailer, opening until 10 p.m. for three nights a week, and it is popular for its wine and coffee as well as its books offer. The bookshop has a slick online presence and is tireless in its outreach.
Button & Bear Children’s Bookshop, a Shrewsbury kids’ indie, is the Midlands category winner. Like all these shops, it is a pillar of its town, staging more than 200 events (including book clubs), supporting schools with events, stock and literacy initiatives, and partnering with several charities.
Forum Books in Corbridge is the North of England category winner for the third time in the past five years. After moving home in 2018, it found room to grow, and clever promos included Blind Date books wrapped in brown paper—but knowledgeable hand-selling is its real bread and butter.
Hunting Raven Books, an independent bookshop in Frome, is the South-west England winner. The indie achieved double-digit growth with some creative promotions and events featuring the likes of Jacqueline Wilson, David Nicholls and Rick Stein. An outreach highlight was a Books Against Loneliness campaign, backed by Pan Mac.
Lighthouse Books (pictured) is the Scotland category winner. In business for just three years, it has quickly established a reputation as a dynamic radical bookseller. The indie averaged an event at the shop every other day in 2019, including workshops, exhibitions, fundraisers and its own Radical Book Fair.
Philip’s in Mallow in County Cork is the Ireland category winner. It celebrated 30 years in family ownership in 2019, but continued to find new ways to push forwards. The bookseller moved to a new 5,000 sq ft space last April, launched a book club and grew its sales by a third.
The Book Hive in Norwich is the East of England winner. It launched a new membership scheme and was a big promoter of the region’s culture, hosting poetry and children’s writing workshops, providing desk space for local creatives, and showcasing talent via its own imprint, Propolis Books.
The Book Shop in Lee-on-the-Solent is the South-east England category winner. Since changing hands in 2018, it has appealed to younger demographics with evening events, school holiday activities and book clubs. Outside-the-box thinking includes book bag giveaways and a “ComicCon” event.
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