Search

Family-owned West End Lane bookshop still giving Amazon a run for its money after 20 years

11:51 30 April 2014

West End Lane Books staff Saskia Van Emden, Ghasson Fergiani (owner), Danny Van Emden and Jonathan Arkless celebrate the shop

West End Lane Books staff Saskia Van Emden, Ghasson Fergiani (owner), Danny Van Emden and Jonathan Arkless celebrate the shop's 20th birthday. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A family-owned bookshop that launched in the same year as rival US book giant Amazon has defied its Kindle-selling rival by celebrating its 20th birthday.

West End Lane Books, West Hampstead, which opened in 1994, was packed with regular customers, neighbouring business owners and book publishers to celebrate the landmark anniversary last Thursday evening.

About 60 people turned up to toast the independent bookshop, a turnout that staff said bore testimony to the “ongoing commitment the West Hampstead community has to its high street”.

Danny Van Emden, who has worked at the shop for the past five years, said: “It’s such a significant milestone for us and is a real achievement for the shop. This is especially true given the market we operate in, which is harder and tighter than ever. But I think we’re better placed than many of our medium-sized counterparts.

“We’re an independent shop that’s small enough to know our customers really well and to have control over what we sell – that’s why I think we’ve been supported in the community and lasted so long.”

The shop has managed to survive while many other bookshops across the country struggle.

The number of independent bookshops on British high streets has declined by a third over the last nine years, falling below 1,000 at the start of this year.

West End Lane’s sister store, England’s Lane Books, in Belsize Park, was forced to close in 2012. Staff say the increasing popularity of online shopping as well as the arrival of electronic book readers, like the Amazon Kindle, has changed the way people shop for their books.

“Amazon and Kindles have taken massive bites out of our business,” said Ms Van Emden. “But I think it’s changing.

“People are starting to realise that if they always buy their products online, there won’t be a high street anymore.

“West Hampstead is such a great community to be a part of and we’ve become a bit like what a post office used to be. People come in here not just to buy or browse books but also to have a chat – that’s something an online shop like Amazon can’t offer.”

West End Lane Books’ birthday comes just months before online giant Amazon.com celebrates its own 20th birthday.

The company started out as a US bookselling website but has now become a global online superstore.

While retaining its traditional shop front in the high street, West End Lane Books has also embraced the possibilities of online.

Its Twitter account has more than 3,500 followers, allowing them to promote newly-released books and engage with their community.

It has also allowed the shop to contact notable authors on Twitter to organise book readings and events.

Asked about whether they thought the shop could last another 20 years, staff were resilient in their response.

“If anything threatens this shop I’ll chain myself to the railings,” said Ms Van Emden.

“The bookshop is so important to West Hampstead – and I think the community agrees.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 18:36
A driver hit three pedestrians on the A400 Hampstead Road near Mornington Crescent (Pic: Tfl Traffic News)

The A400 Hampstead Road is closed both ways between Mornington Crescent and Robert Street in north London after a crash which saw four people hospitalised including a mother, a child and a teenager.

Yesterday, 18:30
Golders Green publisher Adele Ward. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Publisher Adele Ward is standing for the Green Party next month in her first-ever general election contest.

Yesterday, 16:45
Grove Lodge, Admirals Walk

A City financier has bowed to his Hampstead neighbours by withdrawing “inhumane” plans to dig a mega-basement under his landmark Grade II-listed home.

Yesterday, 16:45
Jonathan Davies. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Golders Green Synagogue treasurer Jonathan Davies will stand for the Liberal Democrats for the second time in his home constituency next month.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

The latest North London property news and features straight into your inbox.

Other Emails:
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Glen Moray whiskey could be winging its way to you.

The Glen Moray Classic is a classic Speyside single malt and forms the starting point for the Classic Range.

Seasons 1-4 on Blu-ray, as well as a shiny new Sony Blu-ray player could be coming your way!

To celebrate the fifth series of George RR Martin and HBO’s epic fantasy Game of Thrones, Ladbrokes is giving away a series one to four Blu-ray box set along with a Sony Blu-ray player to one lucky winner!

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder