2020 has been an especially hard year for independent retailers. The new November lockdown in the UK is yet another blow to shop owners, hitting their peak sales period in the run up to Christmas.
Huge online retailers however, like Amazon.com, are booming in this crisis. One can just imagine the directors, Bezos, Olsavsky, Jassy, Reynolds, Wilke and Zapolsky, rubbing their hands together and celebrating over Zoom calls as they watch their operating cash flow increase 56% this year to an eye-watering $55.3 billion.
Whilst many consumers are doing their best to support local shops and suppliers, the speed and convenience of these online giants is hard to beat.
But one new retailer aims to do just that.
Pegged as the ‘Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire’, Bookshop.org is the new online book retailer that helps and supports indie bookshops, offering a socially conscious alternative for consumers wishing to shop online.
Andy Hunter is the organisation's founder and CEO. He says: “Bookshops are essential to a healthy culture, and online sales are vital to safeguarding their future. We can’t afford to lose them. Covid-19 has added further urgency to the need for bookshops to compete for online sales. Bookshop.org’s mission is to empower customers in supporting local, brick and mortar bookstores, providing book buyers with an easy way to shop online while continuing to support their local high street.”
Bookshop.org launched in the UK on 2 November 2020 with the help of UK Managing Director, Nicole Vanderbilt, formerly international VP at Etsy. They had 150 indie bookshops signed up at the start, and just a week later have more than 250. Publishers such as Faber & Faber, Fitzcarraldo Editions, Andersen Press, Picador, Atlantic Books and Jacaranda are already on board after witnessing the organisation’s huge success in the US earlier this year.
In the States, Bookshop.org has already raised over $7.5million in sales for local, independent book stores, giving them the full profit margin from every sale generated on their platform (30% of the cover price). The UK market is following suit and the site has already made over £50,000 for our independent stores.
Consumers benefit too, as books are offered with a small discount and can be delivered in less than a week. They can browse recommendation lists created by authors, influencers, publishers and journalists and create their own book recommendation page to share suggestions with friends, fans or followers. Non-bookshop affiliates that create pages on Bookshop earn 10% of the RRP for every book purchased through it, with independent bookshops also receiving 10%.
This week’s Featured Recommendation Lists include ‘Lest We Forget’, collections of War Time books and memoirs; ‘We’ve Got Her Covered’, celebrating women in politics; ‘Christmas Reading for All the Family’, modern and classic stories, perfect holiday reading.
Here’s what people in the trade are saying about it:
Andy Rossiter of Rossiter Books: “Being an independent bookseller has for so many years been such a David v Goliath battle that it feels slightly disconcerting when someone at last hands you a bazooka instead of you peppering away with your slingshot.”
Georgia Eckert, of Imagined Things Bookshop in Harrogate: “It's brilliant to be part of something that is bigger than what us indies could do individually or together, that has independents at its heart and celebrates the brilliance of our independence through our individually collated lists. Whilst we all still tremendously encourage customers to primarily visit our bookshops in person (and our own websites too) if they can, Bookshop.org's size, offering and reach will rival and disrupt some of the big online competitors in a way that we can't individually, and it will give indie bookshops another way to connect with, and get support from, new customers in this increasingly digital age. Disruption to the current, dangerous status quo of Amazon having such a huge market share and publishers and affiliates linking to them is essential, timely and will make a big difference to indie bookshops."
Philip Gwyn Jones, publisher at Picador: “Like every publisher of long standing, I tend to be an incorrigible – some would say deluded – optimist, but nonetheless I am finding it impossible not to see the arrival of Bookshop.org as being a positively revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling in the UK, and in the evolution of the relationship between writers and readers.”
Stephen Page, CEO at Faber: “The arrival of Bookshop.org solves a missing piece of our rich ecology of bookselling in the UK, with the establishment of a brilliant online partner for our thriving independent bookselling community.”
Meryl Halls, managing director of the UK Booksellers Association: "We’ve seen Bookshop.org emerge as an innovative partner for US indie booksellers, and its mission to support and empower bookshops online is ever-more important in the UK – especially now, as the high street rebuilds, consumers tentatively return to shops, and retailers need to continue to offer a hybrid model to their customers. This new world that UK independent booksellers need to operate in requires a new model, and we know that Bookshop.org has proven to be that for US indie booksellers. A high profile alternative to Amazon in the lead up to Christmas can only help high street independents achieve increased cut-through online with Amazon-averse consumers, authors and others who want to support their local high streets and shop independently."