Can Kids Save the High Street?

At the start of Independent Booksellers Week a week -long celebration of independent bookshops which runs from 30th June to 7th July, the Booksellers Association have revealed that children’s bookshops managed to survive relatively unscathed from the high street gloom of 2011.

While 2011 saw a continued reduction in high street bookshops on Britain’s high streets and campuses, no children’s bookshops closed during the year. Overall 73 independent bookshops closed in 2011 and 36 opened – all openings were in the second half of the year (July-December). In the same period 40 children’s bookshops continued trading and one merged into the owners’ main store.

By December 2011, there were 1,094 independent bookshops in membership of the Booksellers Association and 3,655 total outlets in membership.

This trend in children’s bookshops reflects the buoyancy of the children’s books compared to the overall index. Books & Consumer reported in March that Children’s book purchases rose slightly in 2011 by both volume and value. This was mainly driven by purchase of physical non-fiction titles, where e-books have had little impact. The report went on to say “children’s fiction has been the best performing category over the last 4 years as a whole, and the only main category to achieve volume and value growth.”

Tim Godfray, Chief Executive, Booksellers Association, said:

“Our latest BA membership numbers confirm a continued reduction in the number of bookshops on Britain’s high streets and campuses – a cause for very real concern and something which we urge publishers to consider very seriously and address when formulating their business plans. Though it was gratifying to see an increase in openings in the latter part of last year, and children’s bookshops really holding their own, the competition from the internet and the arrival of e-books are putting pressures on high street and campus bookshops.”

“Independent Bookseller Week is all about encouraging people to go into their local bookshop. Consumers need to vote with their feet and use their local bookshop or risk losing it. Bookshops are social and cultural hubs and provide far more to communities than books and as such deserve and require strong action to preserve their unique role in British life.”

Sonia Benster of the Children’s Bookshop in Huddersfield comments ‘”Nothing can replicate the ‘feel’ of a book and when given wide choice and some unobtrusive guidance, children like to browse, discuss and eventually possess their own book.”