The book in hand

To mark Independent Bookshop Week (19-26 June), The Poetry Society spoke to two booksellers at leading independent bookshops – Kate Claughan of Book Corner, Halifax, and Ross Bradshaw of Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham – about poetry, sales and their hopes going forwards.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has posed the retail sector with major challenges, bookshops have re-opened and customers are slowly returning. Meanwhile, a study by Nielsen BookScan showed that in 2020, the sale of print books still managed to increase 5.2% compared to 2019.

During periods of closure due to social distancing, both bookshops still found ways to reach customers: “We, and many other bricks-and-mortar bookshops, had avoided doing much online, rather concentrating on what we do best – selling in physical shops, rather than trying to carve out a space in direct competition to Amazon,” says Kate. “However, customers were very keen to be able to continue to support us during lockdowns.”

Five Leaves developed their own online shop, while Book Corner opted for a page on Bookshop.org.uk, a new website launched in the UK in November, which aims to challenge international corporations such as Amazon by directing profits from online sales to local bookshops. If you buy through Book Corner’s dedicated shop page, they receive a 30% commission.

Both bookshops have embraced online events. “Initially we did online events just to keep the pot boiling, then we realised that was going to be it for events for a good while, and we started programming less haphazardly – for the long haul,” says Ross. “Our events have included series on diversity in children’s books, Irish literature, women and art, and autistic writers, as well as one-offs.”

Camaraderie and support have been evident in different forms and a lifeline for indies, says Kate. “It has been very stressful, but we’ve had great support from our customers and also from the Booksellers Association. There is also a great network of indie bookshops that support each other with advice, ideas and moral support.”

Ross feels “very positive” about the future of the bookshop: “We’ve picked up lots of new customers, many of them young, moving away from the chains and Amazon. One diamond in the mud of Covid.”

Visit the bookshops at: The Book Corner, The Piece Hall, Halifax HX1 1RE 01422 414443 • https://bookcornerhalifax.com/ or Five Leaves Bookshop, 14a Long Row, Nottingham NG1 2DH • 0115 8373097 • fiveleavesbookshop.co.uk/shop

This piece is an abridged article from the summer issue of Poetry News, The Poetry Society’s quarterly paper which is sent to all Poetry Society Members

21 June 2021