Viewpoint – Not the end of the story for high street book shops

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Retail Insider and K3 Retail bring you a monthly column taking a look at some of the most pertinent and interesting topics of the day in the big wide world of retail.

Not the end of the story for high street book shops

The resurgence in supposedly dying categories on the high street continues. In the last column we covered the greetings card industry while this month there has been much evidence emerging that the book shops are enjoying something of a renaissance.

Not only was Amazon killing the likes of Waterstones and the little independents but e-readers were also giving them serious grief. The writing seemed to be on the wall for the traditional operators.


Among those on the up

But over the Christmas period the tide seemed to turn and there was much positive news. Foyles reported an 8.1% rise in like-for-like sales in December while Waterstones managed a five per cent increase in sales over the peak festive month.

Such figures seem to put in doubt the earlier prediction from PwC that sales of electronic books would overtake those of physical books in 2015. The expectations now are that ebook sales will grab a lesser 40% of the book market. James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, revealed that sales of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader “disappeared to all intents and purposes”.

There were equally buoyant figures from discount book chain The Works that reported a six per cent increase in like-for-like sales over Christmas. A particularly bright spot was its online store where sales were up 140% year-on-year for the six weeks to December 28, with the company successfully launching a click & collect service as part of its growth strategy.


Warm glow at independents

But it has not only been the larger book chains, with their multi-channel capabilities, that have been enjoying improved trading. When The Bookseller canvassed opinion of book shops it found 79% of independents said they had achieved a like-for-like sales increase – compared with only 46% last year. This also compares favourably with the larger booksellers where a lesser 55% reported sales increases.

The majority of independents also express confidence for 2015 but they are not in the slightest bit complacent about the big beast in their jungle – Amazon. However, they can take some crumbs of comfort from the fact that things are at least on the up whereas a year or so ago their very existence was in serious doubt.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.