A resurgence in independent book shops

Images above: Jessica Bloom, Bookcase London 

Independent book shops are having something of a resurgence despite the pandemic, according to the Booksellers Association.

The trade body, which promotes book retailing in the UK and Ireland, reports that booksellers experienced their fourth consecutive year of growth in 2020, following two decades of decline. A total of 967 independent shops in the UK and Ireland were registered with the Booksellers Association at the end of the year, compared with 890 in 2019, 883 in 2018 and 868 in 2017.

This may represent the triumph of hope over common sense, as it is also true that while 77 new bookshops were registered, the total number of new stores was only 50 and in the same year 44 bookstores closed down, so the net increase of new independent bookstores was actually only six. But it may also reflect a new level of support for independent shops from their local communities because of the pandemic.

Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association, reckons local communities value their independent bookshops, that booksellers coped well with the tremendous challenges thrown at them in 2020 and the net increase represents the “resilience, resourcefulness and dedication” of booksellers.

Image above: Peter Rouland, manager Bookcase London

Chiswick independent bookseller Bookcase London celebrates 28 years

In Chiswick we are lucky to have two independent booksellers in addition to Waterstones. Foster Books is a family firm which has been going for more than 50 years in the oldest shop in Chiswick High Rd. Bookcase London is a youngster by comparison, celebrating a mere 28 years last week.

Its manager Peter Rouland opened the shop the year my family moved to Chiswick, my daughter just three, and I remember spending many a happy Saturday browsing their children’s titles for new bedtime stories and beautiful books that explained the world to enquiring young minds.

Owner Adam Bloom has decades of experience in the book trade, and his father before him. Roy Bloom was one of the first five booksellers to discount books in the 1990s, when the Net Book Agreement came to an end, which had seen fixed prices for books since 1900. Supermarkets and petrol stations began selling bestsellers and Adam has always been in the business of selling discounted books.

Bookcase London’s strongest three sections remain discounted children’s books, art books and fiction. About 60% of their stock is discounted. Asked how they continue to compete, just a few doors down from Waterstones, Adam says:

“We offer the best selection of new books we can find at the same price as them and the best selection of discounted books. We have friendly, knowledgeable staff, a handpicked range of books and a very wide selection of cards”.

Top sellers at the moment are the 2020 Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain and winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Hamnet.

Images above: Ben Collins’ book Aston Martin; Tim Harford’s books

Suggestions for Father’s Day

What would Adam recommend for a Father’s Day gift? Tricky, because men’s tastes are as varied as they are, whatever mainstream card manufacturers would have you believe. A golfing biography doesn’t cut it for everyone, though Adam admits his own taste runs to the sports biography. As an Arsenal fan he enjoyed Arsène Wenger’s biography My Life in Red and White.

He also recommends Tim Harford’s books: Messy, How to make the world add up, Fifty things that made the modern economy and The next fifty things that made the modern economy.

He also suggests Ben Collins’ book Aston Martin: Made in Britain, ‘a love letter to an era of gears and gasoline now accelerating towards its twilight’ – Financial Times

They keep customers updated with current best buys on Twitter and Instagram: @bookcase_london / Facebook: Bookcase London.

They sell the latest best selling non-ficiton as well as fiction. Books on houseplants are very popular at the moment and he’s very happy with the introduction of the Chiswick Flower Market, which brings him a regular 25% increase on market Sundays.

Image above: Adam Bloom, owner Bookcase London

Chiswick more right wing than Muswell Hill and Hampstead

Adam lives in north London and over his career has been involved in the running of some 40 shops, most recently in Muswell Hill and Hampstead. Reading tastes in Chiswick, in his experience, are more right wing than in either of the north London stores.

“You couldn’t give away a book on Margaret Thatcher there, in fact if we put one on display they’d probably burn the shop down” he tells me.

We like royalty too apparently. Anything on royalty sells well in Chiswick. And we’re loyal customers.

“Our customers in Chiswick are very loyal” he says. “We have ladies maybe in their thirties or forties coming in who used to come here as a kid. People are very nice and we’re happy for them to pop in for a chat”.

Bookcase London joins The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme

The Chiswick Calendar is delighted that Bookcase London has joined our Club Card scheme, offering Club Card holders a 10% discount off all their stock, whether it is already discounted or not. And if you don’t find what you want there, cross the road to Foster Books, which has been a member of the Club Card scheme since the beginning, to browse Stephen’s second hand and antiquarian selection.

Bookcase London, 268 Chiswick High Rd, W4 1PD / Tel: 0208 742 3919


Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Fifty Years of Foster Books in Chiswick

See also: Books of the Month – Anna Klerfalk looks at what’s new each month

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.