INDEPENDENT bookshops need to modernise to ensure survival, according to a Dorset bookseller.
Jane Roberts, 40, who owns Gullivers Books in Wimborne, says bookshops should use social media to engage with customers and help prevent closure.
Her comments come after a recent finding by the Booksellers Association (BA) that there were fewer than 1,000 independent bookshops left in the UK for the first time.
A total of 67 independent bookshops closed their doors, leaving the national total at 987. This has been blamed on a combination of factors, including Amazon and other online retailers, e-books and an increase in High Street rent prices.
The founder of the Hiscox insurance giant, Robert Hiscox, recently stepped in to save his local bookshop in Marlborough, Wiltshire, saying: “Amazon is a formidable force. There is a real sharp pencil in the small of our backs so we have to make it an experience to buy in a bookshop.”
Gullivers Books, a family-run business, is bucking the trend and it’s largely down to their use of social media, says Jane.
“We try to keep up with the times with our Twitter and Facebook accounts. On Twitter we have over 1,400 followers which I’m incredibly proud of.
“It gets our name out there. When representatives come in and talk about shops closing they say it’s because the shop didn’t move with the times,” she added.
“We also don’t spend much. Our window displays are home-made, my husband builds them. My children come in and help. It takes a big effort by everyone. We’re selling DVDs and jigsaws.
“Amazon has affected us, but people come in and say they don’t want to wait in for a parcel. Some people just come in for a chat. We’re clawing our way back.”
After revealing the figures, the Booksellers Association warned that the situation has reached crisis point.
Chief executive of the BA, Tim Godfray, said: “Everyone should sit up and take notice of this.
“The book trade, the government and the general public need to realise that if we don’t take action now, the future of our bookshops – and therefore the health of the publishing industry and reading itself – is at risk.”
Jane also called on independent bookshops to try and engage with publishers and authors to hold book signings. Gullivers Books is being visited by comedian and author Griff Rhys Jones on March 22 where he will give a talk and sign books. Tickets are £5, include a glass of wine and can be bought from the shop.