It's always difficult predicting the future, but at C & P we're doing ok...
Around this time last year we were forcefully predicting the demise of the high street chains. A certain Waterstones bookseller was rather upset by this and battle commenced, eventually ending in a draw as we decided it was all becoming rather boring.
But we were right.
We said that the chains would struggle as the internet and supermarkets took the land from beneath them in a two pronged attack.
Prong one: You can never stock as many books as Amazon or another e-retailer - not even if you are the size of Waterstones Picadilly. (Amazon don't actually "stock" many books but they give the impression that they stock everything. In practice the punters don't care if the book comes from Amazon's stores or from a small bedroom bookseller - they just want the book)
Prong two: You can never beat the supermarkets on price - they are bigger and more powerful than you.
When you take the high cost of rents and staff then the High Street bookshop chain stops working. (Stop making profits that will attract investment)
Waterstones took over Ottakers and now many shops look like closing. Staff are pissed off.
Borders have just announced they wish to sell off their UK stores. 2000 jobs are now at risk.
But who will buy Borders? Tim Waterstone may be the only interested party but there is another problem in that the Borders stores are not in great locations. Waterstones always made sure they found the best position in a town.
So the high street chains are in trouble. When you take everything into account there is not much profit to be extracted from a chain of bookshops any more.
And that's where the indies come in...
See we aren't after massive profits. There are no shareholders to satisfy at C & P, just adam and I and our meagre needs. Similarly the likes of Topping & Co are perfectly happy with staff being paid good wages, same for Daunt and most other indies. Independent bookselling works because it's about love more than money.
But won't the internet and supermarkets kill indies just like the chains I hear you cry?
Because what we offer our customers cannot be provided over the net or by a big chain. We get to know our customers. We listen to them and often buy in books because people have pointed them out to us and we thought they sounded interesting. Our bookshop works and will continue to thrive because we are creating a place where like-minded people can chat about books, read books, enthuse about books and hear authors talk about books. Yesterday we cocked up an order for a customer and we made sure she had the book in her hand an hour later. She went from furious to chuffed in an instant. Why? Because we made a mistake and we cared and made sure it was sorted.
I think I'm also going to be right in saying that people will continue to be people for a while yet, with human needs. As long as this is the case we will do ok.
So, as we said last year. Bye Bye chains, hello indies.