Independent bookshops ‘closing at rate of two a week’

The UK’s only specialist crime bookshop, Murder One, shut up shop at the beginning of last year, Lancashire’s award-winning Kaydee Bookshop was forced out of business after making a loss for five years running and 2009 also saw the closure of popular south London independent Crockatt & Powell. Independent booksellers are struggling, with official figures revealing that shops closed at a rate of almost two every week over the past year.

With independents blaming increased competition from the internet, supermarkets, a declining British high street and the credit crunch for their troubles, figures from the Booksellers Association show that 102 independent stores closed in 2009, leaving just 1,289 left in the UK – a decline of 27% since 1999. Last year also saw the 45-store book chain Borders fall into administration, while like-for-like sales at Waterstone’s were down by 8.5% in the crucial Christmas trading period.

“The current economic climate is undeniably tough and the book retail sector is suffering across the board,” said the Booksellers Association’s head of membership services Meryl Halls. She called on readers to support independents, saying that those shops which “are fighting so hard to survive continue to deliver an outstanding service – knowing the books they recommend and sell, knowing their customers, focusing on things that the deep price cutters can’t offer and running fantastic and value-adding events”.

“These booksellers are at the centre of their communities but, as with all retailers, they need to be supported in order to survive,” she said.

The Booksellers Association also revealed that 40 independent bookshops opened during 2009, including the Gloucester Road Bookshop in South Kensington, which was acquired by literary quarterly Slightly Foxed, and a first venture into bookselling for literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein, who opened an independent bookshop on Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill in October.

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