Children's bookshops 'buck UK High Street decline'
Children's bookshops are bucking a UK-wide decline, according to a new report by the Booksellers Association (BA).
Not a single children's bookshop closed in 2011, said the report, despite a steady drop in the number of independent stores, with 73 closing their doors for good.
The report added 36 new bookshops opened in the second half of the year.
The findings were revealed at the start of Independent Booksellers Week - which runs from 30 June until 7 July.
One bookseller's experience
I am slightly surprised, but the last three months have been very good. There are signs that people are spending more money on books for their children. I think we're two years into a recession and now people are aware of how much they've got to spend. A book is the same price as two cups of coffee.
I think schools are also helping with highlighting literacy. We do a lot with schools, and we do author events and events during the holidays. People are definitely supporting their local communities more, too, not just in bookshops. It could be that there is a bit of an Amazon backlash at the moment, as they don't put any money back into the community. We have a lot of local customers, I think people are realising the importance of their local bookshops.
The whole thing about a local bookshop is that it's a theatrical experience, something that customers wouldn't get if they bought something online. We're doing crafts, stationery and a lot of Tintin products to go with the books. The parents can have tea and cake and sit with their children while they choose what book they want. It's an enjoyable experience.
Jeff Doak, Mr & Mrs Doak's Bumper Bookshop for Boys and Girls, Eastbourne, East Sussex
Children's book purchases rose slightly in 2011 by both volume and value, said the BA report, quoting research by Books And Consumer.
The increase was driven by the purchase of physical non-fiction titles.
During the period from July to December last year, 40 children's bookshops continued trading.
According to the BA's UK figures, by December 2011, it had 1,094 independent members - with the total membership coming in at 3,655.
In October, the BA revealed its membership had fallen by 20% since 2006.
Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray said: "Though it was gratifying to see an increase in openings in the latter part of last year, and children's bookshops really holding their own, the competition from the internet and the arrival of e-books are putting pressures on high street and campus bookshops."
While printed book sales are at their lowest level for nine years, children's books have so far failed to make the move to digital.
"There are more apps and things for children, but parents are still buying the hard board books and illustrated books we all know and love," said Philip Jones deputy editor of trade publication The Bookseller.
"It's very hard to replicate that experience in digital format. I think most parents still feel there's a sort of safety in print, it's still the medium of choice," he added.
"Smart booksellers will take advantage of that and open for longer hours and encourage parents to come in."
Jones said publishers were also getting better at publishing unique, stand-alone books, and the kind of quirky titles that tend to do well in independent bookshops.
One example was Mark Forsyth's The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language, which became a huge hit after being published late last year.
Jones said children's publishers were also catching on.
"The big growth area has been sticker books, and you can't replicate that digitally for obvious reasons," he said.
"I think there's a whole growing genre in what we call interactive print books," continued Jones.
"You tend to think digital innovation means digital readers, but it can actually be improving what we can do with print books thanks to new technology."
About 300 shops are taking part in Independent Booksellers Week, now in its sixth year.
Taking a leaf out of the book of Record Store Day - which celebrates independent record shops - a range of limited edition "collectable" titles will be available from independent shops.
2012's bestselling children's books so far
- 1) The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
- 2) The Hunger Games Trilogy: Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
- 3) The Hunger Games Trilogy: Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
- 4) War Horse - Michael Morpurgo
- 5) Theodore Boone: The Abduction - John Grisham
- 6) Where's Wally Now? - Martin Handford
- 7) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth - Jeff Kinney
- 8) The What the Ladybird Heard Song - Julia Donaldson
- 9) Roald Dahl's Fantabulous Facts (World Book Day) - Roald Dahl
- 10) Big Day Out - Jacqueline Wilson