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Independent bookshops unite to battle high street stores

PUBLISHED: 17:13 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:17 07 September 2010

Independent bookshops have clubbed together to fight big chains.  Gary Mclaren (Manager of The Owl Bookshop) and the window display

Independent bookshops have clubbed together to fight big chains. Gary Mclaren (Manager of The Owl Bookshop) and the window display

© Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd,London,NW37QX. Phone 020 7794 3008. email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

INDEPENDENT booksellers are joining forces in a David and Goliath fight against global retailers. The Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town Road and Primrose Hill Books in Regent s Park Road have joined a UK-wide book club to reduce costs and keep them in the mark

INDEPENDENT booksellers are joining forces in a David and Goliath fight against global retailers.

The Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town Road and Primrose Hill Books in Regent's Park Road have joined a UK-wide book club to reduce costs and keep them in the market against larger firms such as Waterstone's and Amazon.

"It gives us access to better discounts and allows us to give money off best-sellers," said Owl manager Gary McLaren. "It gives customers incentive to pick something up they may not normally read."

"One of our items, the quite unknown Behaviour for Moths by Poppy Adams, is a hardback and costs £12.99 but we are able to sell it for £10, encouraging people to pick it up. We couldn't do that if we weren't part of the group.

"It gives us a chance to compete with the chains, who get better discounts."

Both local stores have signed up to the group Leading Edge Books, which collaborates independent bookshops across the country.

Managing director of the Australia-based company Ian Goldman said: "Little bookshops often struggle to compete with big chains. The little guys don't get a look in in terms of pricing, so they often get squeezed out."

Each bookshop in the club pays a monthly membership fee of £40, giving them similar advantages to large businesses such as bulk buying and special deals from suppliers.

"It's quite a lonely life for independent retailers so we also help the group come together and share ideas and support each other," said Mr Goldman.

The group currently supports 60 independent bookshops throughout the UK, 13 of which in London.

Jessica Graham, manager of Primrose Hill Books, said: "Joining Leading Edge is about sharing ideas with other book sellers, and having an intermediary to speak to the publishers is very useful. We're not just one voice but are a collective."

Ms Graham believes that, despite the decline of independent bookshops, they will never die out.

She said: "High streets are no longer full of independent shops but we've been here longer than all the chains.

"We are still here and the chains come and go. We don't just sit behind the till or change staff every six months like the chains. We have links with the local community and have a personal connection with them.

"Independent bookshops will stick around because we are specialists. It's not about price but people want to be recommended a book by someone who has read it. They don't want to sift through thousands of books. They come once and stick with us for 20 years.


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