Independent bookshops in south west London are having to innovate to unite their readers and community to celebrate Indie Bookshop Week this week.
This year it is running from Saturday 19 June – Saturday 26 June 2021.
Now in its 15th year, normally booksellers would hold events like book signings, readings and big reading groups to bring people together to promote new works and their shops but Covid restrictions have put a limit on what they can do.
South West Londoner spoke to four local independent bookshops on their experience of the last year.
Nomad Books in Fulham has a few promotions on, with extra loyalty points and four for the price of three on Penguin Random House books.
They also have local author Annabel Abbs signing her new book Windswept, a feminist exploration of the power of walking in nature following figures such as Georgia O’Keefe, Daphne Du Maurier and Simone de Beauvoir.
Meera from Nomad Books said: “It has been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last year. We usually do something to celebrate Indie Bookshop Week with lots of events but we can’t do that right now.
“Our customers have been really supportive and we are doing our best to serve them. We love our community here in Fulham.”
Kew Bookshop are giving away goodie bags for kids and signed books where they can.
The manager of Kew Bookshop said: “It has been a really hard time but we are staying positive. We have had to close three times in the last year and it was especially difficult just before Christmas to know how much stock to buy for the shop. It’s put us back quite a lot.
“We did have a website up and running and we started click and collect over lockdown, although we had to cobble it together very quickly. It works but it was not without its challenges.
“We cannot have events or encourage people to gather this year, but we still want people to know we are here and that they can support us online now.
“We are so thankful to our customers. Most of our customers are 60+ and we have not seen a lot of them for a year and a half. It is only if they have children that are able to use the website to buy books for them.
“Publishing has been so affected by lockdown. Brexit has affected booksellers as well. We have had a lot of delays as books are printed in Europe or the Middle East. We are hoping this Christmas is back to normal.
“We are aiming for a positive outlook and looking forward to when things are back to normal.”
Children’s bookshop, Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill is doing a couple of giveaways, a jelly bean counting competition and a few authors coming into sign some books.
Bookseller Kathlyn said: “We are using this time to highlight local authors who support us and smaller independent shops.
“Lucy Ivison, author of Sequins and Secrets, had a small afternoon tea with some of the younger customers in the café next door called The Room which was really special.
“We are using Bookshop.org to sell our books online which has been a lifeline. They are really great. They have allowed all indie bookshops to run with them and further our online presence.
“We have ramped up our social media to let everyone know that we are still here. It is more social media than ever before this year which is great to reach different audiences. That was the driving force behind using it more although we have always used it.
“I would like to thank all the local community for popping by, knocking on the door, bringing us biscuits. They have been incredibly supportive. That is what we are taking away from this.”
Lutyens and Rubinstein in Notting Hill is doing a walk-by book-signing outside the shop with Jackie Higgins and her book Sentient, which assembles a host of zoological creatures to understand what it means to be human and is out on Thursday.
Anna from the shop said: “Since we have opened it has been amazing to see people coming back in and recently it looks like some tourists have come back as well. Being in the shop is just not the same as online although Bookshop.org and click and collect were a lifesaver last year.
“We are launching a podcast with Claire, the manager of the bookshop, in conversation with Jackie Higgins which is going to be put up on Youtube this week. We hope to continue those conversations with other authors depending on how that goes!”
While the last year has undeniably been difficult for bookshops, surprisingly the Booksellers Association (BA) announced a fourth consecutive year of growth in the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland.
In January, it released its numbers of independent bookshops with BA membership. At the end of 2020 this was 967 shops, up from 890 shops in 2019 marking the highest number of independent bookshops with membership since 2013.
BA managing director Meryl Halls said: “It has been an incredibly difficult year for booksellers, and the High Street as a whole, so it is fantastic to see the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland increase for a fourth consecutive year.
“COVID-19, national lockdowns and shifting tier systems have had a huge impact on bookshops across the country, with footfall significantly reduced, the supply chain affected, and competition from tech giants more unfair than ever.
“Thankfully, booksellers were able to adapt quickly to the new realities of 2020, pivoting their services online and finding new ways to reach their customers and continue operating.
“2021 is likely to be another challenging year for booksellers as the full impact of the pandemic on the High Street becomes apparent. However, this year has proven the resilience, resourcefulness and dedication of booksellers, and we will do everything we can to support them as they look ahead and plan for a post-pandemic future.”
For more information on your local bookshop, you can follow @booksaremybag and #IndieBookshopWeek.
Feature photo credit: Booksellers’ Association