Friday, 28 December 2018

The ups and downs of bookshops, other shops, old shops.

 The photos of Ramsgate shops were taken in 1903

Much of the news today is about our shops and shopping, especially physical shops and beyond that shops selling media, books, audio files including music, video files including films and TV programs.

Surfacing on what is an ordinary working day for me, like most people now I suppose, my phone now doubles as alarm clock and trebles as newspaper. So before I had even got out of bed I was aware that shops are in the news.

Here in the UK most towns got started because they were an obvious place for people to trade. Looking at our main towns it looks say as though Canterbury developed around the cathedral but the reality is that – mostly food and cloth producers met where Canterbury is to trade their goods, so people went there to live.

Our coastal towns are a bit different as they mostly developed around access to the sea, although it’s a bit more complicated than that.

With first the coming of out of town shopping centres, bookshop chains and then the internet and especially Amazon, the independent new bookshops were very hard hit. secondhand bookshops are a bit different and I think what really did for them was the combination of shop overheads rising, mostly rent, rates and staff costs, while the prices of individual books fell because of the internet. I don’t think the competition from charity shops and dedicated charity bookshops has had very much impact.   

In terms of viable businesses secondhand bookshops tend to come in two types. One being the bookshops where the books are primary aimed at collectors, Like Harrington’s in the BBC article, Marrin’s in Folkestone and Chaucer Books in Canterbury. The other type, like Hooked on Books in Margate, Oxford Street Books in Whitstable or the one where I work Michael’s Bookshop here in Ramsgate, that mostly sell books that you would buy new but are cheaper secondhand.

With the general secondhand bookshop I don’t think there is a good living to be made from one at the moment, but it is possible to make a substantial part of a living if you have reserves to top this up with.   

With the imminent administration of HMV it may be a good idea to go to one of their shops and spend any HMV Gift Cards, I am not 100% sure but I don't think you can use them on their website. Update while writing they have gone into administration but will be taking gift cards again from Tuesday.  

I'm finishing off this post at work in the bookshop and tentatively wondering if our district council has much in the way of plans to save Westwood Cross or our High Street. The underlying problem is that there is just more shop space than people are using to buy things in. 

The bookshops in Thanet are are good example of what I mean, when I opened in Ramsgate in 1987, in terms of bookshops that sold new books, the was Albion in Broadstairs and Albion in Northdown Road plus a fairly modest selection in Geering's in Ramsgate, as the W H Smith situation in the towns is pretty much the same now as it was then it doesn't really count in the equation. However if you think of the combined floor space devoted to books of the Waterstones and W H Smith at Westwood Cross that replaced the bookshops that closed here in Thanet, it is very hard to see how it could relate to any increase in book buying locally.

On very major factor with a lot of shops is that to do well they have to be clustered together, what used to be called the high street, then the shopping centre. Parking is also a big factor and not just as simple as free, but priced at a level that ensures that you can park reasonably easily when you go shopping.

Car parks that spend most of their time mostly empty and car parks that you can't get a space in are not particularly helpful.

 It must be a long time since W. H. Smith closed at Ramsgate Station.

Or course there is adjusting the situation using grant funding here is the link to the most recent Thanet news item   about this.

Can local government have much impact on this one? I don't really know. The problem here is very much about how humanity and communities work. When we go out in the winter, for most of us it's eat, drink, shop, the is a bit of arts, events visiting historic and even getting some exercise.  

I think optimally were government to take a logical approach to this then it would be to to get such shops as we do have back into the the main centres of population by putting an environmental tax on shopping centres that people have to travel to.

Our own bookshop wise this is the link to the photos of the books we put out today

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.