Will the Books Are My Bag campaign work?
For sure a “bag” won’t save high street bookshops, no more than one drop of rain creates a reservoir. For too long there’s been a negativity and despondent aura around high street bookshops and at times an almost resigned attitude to Amazon’s dominance of bookselling. It is important for the book trade, authors, and society in general that an Amazon alternative is promoted in a positive and fresh way to the book buying public, Books Are My Bag is such a campaign.
The Books Are My Bag campaign aims is to show that books (and where they are bought) are important in our lives and that they have played a huge part in shaping us into being the people that we are today. Consumers will be encouraged to buy books, and yes they could buy online, however all high street bookshops can engage with the campaign and ensure that book buyers know there is a serious alternative to buying online and it’s right on their doorstep, even open 24/7.
The Books Are My Bag campaign won’t save every high street bookshop in Great Britain and Ireland and I don’t believe that any movement could now do that. Its aim is to remind old and new book lovers that the physical presence of bookshops on the high street is important to our communities. As well a place where you’ll discover new reads, it is a place where you might be reminded of old books you never got around to reading, but always wanted to.
“The Bag” is a key element in the marketing strategy by being the on- the-street component that will work in partnership with the PR campaign. Including Waterstones and W H Smith there are over 2,500 high street bookshops in the UK and Ireland. If each of these shops gave out 100 bags to their customers in September, asking them to use the bags every day for a month, there would be over 250,000 walking adverts out on the high streets reminding people about books. Back this up with a strong PR campaign with celebrities from all walks of life and it’s possible that the pleasure of making a book purchase will be pushed to the forefront of consumers’ minds during the autumn.
Does this mean that high street bookshops will see a huge upturn in book sales, probably not, will it save high street bookshops that are already under threat from high rent/rates increases, a new supermarket moving in next door or one that is a declining shopping area, sadly not. So what might it do, it might just pull the thoughts of buying books back to the centre of consumers lives, make them consider where they buy their books, revive thoughts of the pleasures of going into bookshops and of buying a book.
The recent American Booksellers Association conference reported that their independent bookshops are focusing on “the 2%”. What they mean by that is either a 2% cut in costs or a 2% increase in sales making the difference between their closure and survival. Here in the UK the Books Are My Bag campaign might provide us with the opportunity to focus on increasing our sales by 2% this autumn.
No one is pretending that this campaign is the solution to all our woes; eBooks are as big a threat to high street bookshops selling only the print version. The launch this week by Book Tokens Ltd of the independent booksellers eBookshop website makes it possible for book buyers to buy eBooks (very easily) and support their local bookshop 24/7. High Street bookshops owners do not expect charity and we know that we have a responsibility to run a business that is attractive to the consumer, to be knowledgeable about their products, to offer excellent customer services and in many ways be a better experience than the shopping online. The independent bookshops that are surviving in today’s market are doing just that, adapting, innovating and changing. Did anyone think a few years ago that a deli would be thought of as a section in a bookshop as it is with Mainstreet Books or that each month the bookshop would become the town’s cinema as it is with Caxton Books?
Books Are My Bag is not intended to solve all our problems however most people within the book industry understand the importance of having books on high streets throughout the UK and Ireland. This campaign should reinforce that thought in the minds of the consumer, at a time when purchases are at their seasonal highest, and it could well have a tremendous impact.
Want to know more about the Books Are My Bag campaign click here.