Much was made in the media of a recent story about Waterstones book shops masquerading under the guise of a local independent.
They have gone into places like Southwold ‘Knightsbridge on the East coast’ painted the shop in the local ‘pastels’ and given it a name such as ‘Southwold Bookshop’ . Now you are browsing in the warm, friendly and cosy apparently local book shop. Yet it is not.
Well, I say, in the event of most small towns not having a bookshop anymore,
They are not imposing an anonymous national retail chain blandness on the High street. They are restoring a much missed retail outlet. But more importantly they are helping to restore part of the retail community that many of our towns so desperately need.
I am not suggesting that it is ok for Tesco’s to open up loads of ‘Ye Olde Grannies Pantries’ in the hope of conning the locals into their dens of ‘retail’ iniquity . But a bookshop is a very different proposition. Despite the explosion of e-books, the sales of printed books in 2016 rose for the first time in four years. Nevertheless, much of the purchases would have been online. If, for no other reason, there are very few bookshops left. Consequently, new bookshops have to be welcomed no matter how they are clothed.
Perhaps, there is even more significance to this development. Books were one of the first commodities to be targeted by online operators . Consequently, book stores were the first to suffer the consequences. This may be an indicator, no matter how small, that the market has discovered it cannot rely entirely online. There are other indicators but I think this has another significance.
Much has been discussed by retailing ‘experts’ about the dying High street, especially in small towns in the U.K. Online sales, rent, rates, and general costs to operate all figure strongly. What has only just been realised is the importance of high street retailing to a local community and by this I don’t mean places to shop. Shops are places where local people meet each other and ‘socialise ‘ in an everyday superficial level. In many situations, especially with the elderly, and those who live alone, it is the only time they get to talk to people on a day to day basis even if it is only to the person on the till. Furthermore I suggest there is a greater chance a small child who is taken into a bookshop is likely to ask their parents to buy them a book than seeing one on a screen. That can’t be a bad thing.
If bookshops, in particular a chain, think there is a commercial need to return to the High Street, then they should applauded not mocked. This is not the first time I have said this but perhaps this a sign of things to come . Entrepreneurs considering ‘shops’ as an entry to market.
However, there is proviso. If this to happen, people do have to buy something when they are in the shop !