Despite the best efforts of UK business rates and rent setters, and Big Publishing, British independent booksellers appear not to have been killed off yet, but are in fact thriving, at least if a piece in The Bookseller, reporting the results of its own survey, is anything to go by. The Bookseller’s Independents Christmas Trading Survey may not have the largest sample size on record, at just 57 respondents, but with a total of just 987 still in business as of early 2014, according to the Booksellers Association, it is fairly representative. And it indicated that almost 80 percent of the respondents saw a sales boost over the Christmas holiday period, almost double the number over the two preceding Christmases.
The booksellers quoted by … ahem … The Bookseller attributed part of the sales hike at least to milder weather over the Christmas period, as well as calendar quirks that delivered an extra trading day just before Christmas. They also noted that overall profits for the 2014 holiday period would likely be level rather than commensurately higher, due to heavier discounting.
Still, any improvement, however modest, is welcome for the UK book trade. But the article also indicated that bookshops are being poorly served by their distribution partners, with numerous complaints about couriers and delivery firms. And as the whole sector still has something to prove when measured against Amazon, you can see why everyone focuses so heavily on fulfilment in modern book retailing.