Posts Tagged ‘bookseller’

Emily Thornberry supports independent bookshops

May 16th, 2018

So eventually the letter I wrote to Emily Thornberry who is my MP for Islington South and Finsbury received a reply.
The Right Honourable Mel Stride is the Oxford University educated Conservative MP for Central Devon and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. His reply to Emily details some of the measures that were taken to remove the sting from the increased business rates which affect many smaller retailers. Thresholds were indeed increased and certain shops including some independent bookshops were able to escape some of the higher business rate increases. Credit where it’s due.

One particularly interesting thing that Mr Stride said was that he would be increasing the frequency of property revaluations from once every five years to once every three years. This is a reform he says to ensure that bills are fairer as they more closely reflect properties’ current rental values and relative changes in rents. It may be true that business rates are easy to collect, difficult to avoid and have a clear link with local authority spending. But if property values go up every 3 years and trigger similar increases in rents and in business rates, I suggest that the high street and local communities are going to find themselves losing out big time. In particular I think that independent High Street bookshops are going to carry on closing down as a result.
When fixed overheads increase not only because of higher rent, but doubly so because of higher rates, then it makes many independent High Street bookshops increasingly unprofitable.
Can a bookshop charge more for its £8.99 priced book? Can it add £1 more to the price of a new book for increased rent and another pound more for increased business rates? Since books are published with a recommended retail price printed clearly on them, and yet, since the net book agreement collapsed, any retailer can charge any amount they want below that price, it is like having a downwards only clause attached to the price of the products we booksellers are selling. Whereas the bookshop property leases we end up signing mainly have an upwards only clause for the rents and consequently for the business rates.
How is this fair to those independent book shops which you say the government recognises makes such a valuable contribution to the community?
Do you know what you should be doing Mr Stride?
-making 100% sure all independent book shops are indeed recognised for their special contribution and have a special business rates provision that is the equivalent to the business rates that charity shops pay. At present charities occupying commercial property are eligible for 80% mandatory relief, which local authorities can choose to top up by an additional 20%.
Emily said in her letter to me that the financial secretary to the Treasury hasn’t provided specific measures for independent bookshops.
Emily said to me that she appreciates this is not the response I was hoping for. Emily is right.
But I am going to write back to Emily to tell her what I think the response from The Right Honourable Mel Stride could and should have been. Why isn’t this the fair response that the valuable contribution independent bookshops make to the High Street and local Communities deserves: 80 to 100% business rates relief for independent bookshops in the UK?


Inauguration Stations

February 5th, 2014

Hello Hello Hello! Hello. We are the Bookseller of Silicon Roundabout and we would like to welcome you to our new-look blog.

We’ve been selling books in Old Street Roundabout for thirteen years and we figured, with the arrival of this most auspicious of anniversaries, that it was time to create a place to talk about it. So here we have it: a soapbox for a material girl in a digital world.

At the beginning of last week the Standard broke the news that the area around Old Street Roundabout (or ‘Tech City’, as it is snazzily styled) has become the place for tech start-ups to locate themselves. One interviewee said: “There’s a great energy in London’s start-up scene. It’s still proving itself.”

I mean, isn’t this just a really astonishing piece of news? Tech companies in Silicon Roundabout? It’s dynamite!

This story could have been written on any year for the last decade so, apparently, nothing has changed. Old Street is still the up and coming place for the up and coming. But then, they do keep coming – and this high turnover of businesses and the people that work in them has put the shop in contact with an ever shifting population of workers. It’s given us a window onto these different people’s changing book-buying habits.

First off, we’ve seen the decline of technical books. Since the beginning it’s been our policy not to stock software how-to manuals and such the like as they grow obsolete so quickly, but we have always offered a service ordering specific books that our customers need. As the years have gone on the number of these requests has steadily declined, to the point that now we can go weeks on end without any enquires about technical books at all.

On the flip side of this decline, we have seen a steady increase in sales of science fiction. What is interesting is that our past experience has shown that technical books and science fiction have often gone together – customers with an interest in one would frequently have an interest in the other.

What this suggests to me is that, whilst our customers are looking less and less to print to learn how to do specific things, they are turning to books more often as a form of escape. Several customers who spend their workdays sat at computers have told me that when they get home they want a way to relax which doesn’t involve looking at a screen.

It has always been the job of speculative fiction to look forwards: to imagine, for better or for worse, what will come next. For most of us, the future will mean more time spent at a computer. And as the amount of time that we’re plugged-in steadily increases, the existence of books as a means of respite – as an access to the thrilling sensation of  complete immersion in one’s own imagination – will become more important than ever.

But then, we would say that.

What do you think?


The Bookseller of Silicon Roundabout