Shop Small: Support Independent Bookshops

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Entering a bookshop is a wonderful experience. Thousands of stories line the walls, decorated with stunning cover art, taunting you into picking them up. It’s almost impossible to leave without buying one (or several) beautiful new books to read and, in my experience, physical book shopping will always beat shopping online.

However, shopping in any bookshop, let alone independent bookshops, has been a bit of a struggle over the past few months. It is no surprise that all businesses are struggling in the wake of coronavirus with all stores closing their doors on the 23rd March, and despite the gradual reopening since the middle of June, there are still many people that do not feel comfortable going out to shop for books. Bookshops are no longer a source of calm and tranquillity, a place to spend hours browsing and picking up interesting-looking titles but have become reduced to a potentially-anxiety-inducing space.

This has left many indie bookshops struggling. Unlike large chains, smaller bookstores do not have the funds to keep themselves afloat. Sadly, many have already closed or may be forced to over the next few months. Now is the time to find ways to continue to support local and independent bookshops, even without venturing in store. A great website that allows you to support independent stores online is Hive (https://www.hive.co.uk/): an online bookshop that sells physical books and ebooks, audiobooks, and supports an independent bookshop with every purchase. After you’ve checked out, Hive provides customers with a selection of local indie bookshops that they can choose to send a percentage of the sale too. They even offer free home delivery to the UK and have a wider selection of books than most local bookshops can offer.

However, though many shops have struggled with the transition to online selling, others have found increasingly creative ways to advertise their stores. They have been able to promote their stores and generate sales, all without a single customer stepping through the door. For example, Armchair Books (https://www.armchairbooks.co.uk/), a second-hand bookshop based in Edinburgh, replicated an authentic bookshop experience digitally. They photographed every shelf in their store and uploaded it to their website, allowing customers to virtually browse the entire store. Being able to scroll through and search for books was as close to being in a physical shop as many people were able to get for months and it was truly a wonderful piece of marketing. Other local bookshops have offered creative delivery methods, bundle deals, and quarantine care packages, ensuring no reader ran out of books during the lockdown period! These marketing strategies highlight the resilience of the book industry, the willingness to transition to online selling, and the creative ways in which businesses have overcome the challenges created by the pandemic.

It is always important to support local and independent bookstores, but it is particularly crucial during a time when businesses are struggling. Not to mention that escaping into a world of fiction has never been more appealing than now. Whether you’re disappearing into a fantasy world, enjoying a feel-good romance or exploring the past in historical fiction, it will probably be more enjoyable than focusing on the rather dystopian reality we are currently living in. If you’ve been an avid reader for years, or have just started to pick up books, there is no better time to buy more books and support local businesses simultaneously.

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