Independent booksellers in Norfolk have cast aside fears that the rise of e-books and tough trading on the high street has put a stranglehold on their business by announcing positive sales over Christmas.

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City Bookshop and The Bookhive in Norwich, and Sheringham bookseller Bertram A. Watts, all said they had either met, or exceeded, their sales targets over the festive period compared to 2011.

The news comes despite a survey by Experian revealing that the number of bookshops on the British high street had halved in the last seven years – with 1,878 book shops open in 2012 compared to 4,000 in 2005.

And in a further boost for independent book sellers, London-based Foyles said its sales between Christmas and New Year had been “exceptionally strong” – but had seen its revenue dip by 2pc from December 1 to 24 in contrast to 2011.

David Clarke, co-owner of City Bookshop on Davey Place, saw his shop’s takings rise by 14.5pc in the 13 weeks to the new year – including an 8pc boost in individual sales from 10,945 items in 2011 to 11,866 last year.

Mr Clarke, whose stock includes a mixture of bargain books, local-interest titles, as well as second-hand and antiquarian books, said the shop had benefited from an increase in footfall and a number of antique items selling for high prices.

This included The History of Norfolk by Francis Blomefield, published in the 19th century, which fetched a princely sum of £1850. He said: “We were not hugely busy in the first year we opened, but by the second and third year all these high street chains started opening around us such as White Stuff, Crew Clothing, Cath Kidston, and the Patisserie Vallerie cafe next door.

“It has made a heck of a difference to the footfall in Davey Place and Castle Street and has helped us no end.

“There are alarming figures coming from online retailers such as Amazon that state more people are buying e-books than printed titles.

“But we find that people still want to buy books, and while we are not making a fortune, we are making a profit. While people still want printed books, and will buy them, we will be here. But we are tremendously lucky that Norwich has such a successful retail environment.”

Meanwhile, Henry Layte, the owner of The Book Hive on London Street, also reported an increase in sales over the Christmas period in contrast to 2011.

Mr Layte, who opened shop three years ago, said it was partly down to customers boycotting online retail giant Amazon after it was revealed to have avoided paying millions of pounds of taxes by using countries with lower tax rates as a base for their UK operations.

He said: “The reason we are up on last year is because people are still discovering us – for lots of people we are still a new shop. It is a buzz for people when they visit us during the year and they then think to come back to see us at Christmas.

“Also, we found that people were saying that they would rather order books with us because they wanted to boycott Amazon.”

Mr Layte also believes the outlook for independent book shops is more positive than Experian survey reveals.

“More book shops are opening now that for a long time because people want an alternative to a run of the mill chain,” he added.

Elsewhere in Sheringham, co-owner of Bertram A. Watts, Catherine Hill, said they had not seen “outstanding” sales over the Christmas period, but they were still good.

Mrs Hill, who co-owns the 100-year-old store with her husband Peter, said they had fared well because they had a loyal customer base of older shoppers who were not as tempted to buy e-books or shop online.

She said: “Our customers are very loyal. The customer base is an older customer who still likes to come in and see the products. “They are interested in having something physical rather than going for the e-reader”

1 comment

  • A great pity that Jarrolds, an independent and not part of a national chain,are not mentioned. Their book department (which is in Norwich!) has always been considered one of the best in Eastern England. Perhaps an "upgrade" on this story is required.

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    Port Watcher

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

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