Browsing for your next read in a favourite bookshop is an experience treasured by book lovers throughout the UK but it is one that has been increasingly jeopardised in recent years that have seen the number of UK bookshops drop dramatically.
Even before the devastation brought to small business by the current pandemic, over the last two decades it has become increasingly difficult for bookshops to make ends meet. Due to pressure from online retailers and supermarkets, the number of bookshops in the UK halved in the years between 2005 and 2011 and largely continued to fall ever since.
However, in 2019 the Booksellers Association reported the third consecutive year of increased numbers of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland, showing the industry’s incredible ability to adapt and survive in the face of increasing adversity.
The survival of small businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is a concern for many and Bookshop.org, a new online bookstore has thrown its hat in the ring in the fight against online giants such as Amazon.
Following the success of its US launch in January, the website has now expanded to the UK, partnering with over 150 independent bookshops to help them reach a wider customer base during the pandemic.
In an effort to help small booksellers struggling to compete with huge online retailers, Bookshop.org aims to boost sales for independent stores by providing an accessible platform where customers looking to support small or local businesses can shop at affordable prices.
In the face of another month-long lockdown in England and with much of the UK facing some form of COVID-19 restrictions, the website offers independent bookshops a helping hand in the lead up to Christmas. So far, Bookshop.org has raised over £34,500 for local bookshops and handles all customer service and shipping, allowing them to make faster sales at competitive prices.
With Amazon UK’s pandemic sales having tripled according to its third-quarter earnings, bookshops across the UK are facing more pressure than ever to maintain sales, largely by shifting business online to compensate for the loss of customers in shops. It is here where Bookshop.org can help smaller stores to level the playing field.
The shops included on the website can create their own virtual shopfront and receive the full profit margin from each sale. Buyers can find specific bookshops to support, otherwise, their money is added to an earnings pool, consisting of 75% of the site’s profits which is then evenly distributed among bookshops.
Created by Andy Hunt, the founder of Literary Hub, Bookshop.org is a B Corporation, a company dedicated to the public good, meaning it can never be sold to a major US retailer, including Amazon, protecting the interests of independent booksellers for the future.
In times where many are missing the opportunity to browse for their next read in a bookshop, the website strives to recreate an authentic shopping experience, with experts curating the site instead of the usual algorithms. Customers can engage with individual shops by visiting their page to see recommendations and staff favourites, bringing much-cherished elements of the bookshop experience online.
The adaptability and perseverance shown by independent bookshops, both during the pandemic and over previous years, gives booklovers hope that these stores will remain a staple feature of our towns and high streets for years to come as they now have a chance at playing Amazon and other companies at their own game.
Image Credit: Leeds List