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Independent bookshops' numbers down but Forest of Dean and Gloucester booksellers say customer service is key

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 24, 2014

Forest Bookshop

Forest Bookshop

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Bookshops, once a mainstay of any High Street, are a dwindling breed.

There are now fewer than 1,000 independent bookshops on the streets of the UK - that represents a third less than there were a decade ago.

The challenges facing bookshops are similar for any High Street shop – which have also been struggling – but booksellers also face competition from online giants like Amazon and the growth of downloadable e-books.

But Ian Claridge, who runs The Forest Bookshop in Coleford, says an independent bookseller can offer more than chains or online warehouses.

Mr Claridge said: “Because we’re booklovers we can stock what we like and can look for more interesting titles than some other shops.

“There’s a book called The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, which became a massive bestseller and that was initially picked up by independent shops. The shops got it in because it seemed like a quirky title, something out of the ordinary and it took off from there. We can do that and aren’t just driven by commercial considerations.”

And, Mr Claridge added, independents can also be more focussed on their local customers. He said: “We’ve got a small publishing arm which specialises in books about the Forest, and we have events here, we’ve got some loyal customers who like to come in and look around, or they ring before and we can source thousands of books, most within 24 hours. Shopping with us keeps the money in the local community rather than sending it abroad.”

Geoff Cook runs Quayside Books in Commercial Street in central Gloucester. The secondhand bookshop next to its sister business – a picture framers – is crammed with books on all sorts of topics, from military history to art to modern and old maps and a passageway is piled high with fiction from Shakespeare to Hugh Laurie.

Mr Cook said: “We’ve got a pretty comprehensive selection here, and one of the advantages is being able to browse and find something unexpected, rather than just going to what you want online.

“People are shopping more online, and also are going all audio-visual but a lot of people who come in say they still like books as a physical object because they’re tactile.

“It’s just a challenge to get them in the door. I used to have a bookfinding service and do a lot of work on the internet but we lost a lot of stock in a fire last year.

“But if people ring me I know pretty much what we have.”

The Forest Bookshop can be contacted on 01594 833334 and Mr Claridge takes a personal interest in any book inquiry which can be made on ian@forestbookshop.com

Contact Quayside Books in Gloucester on 01452 300422.

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