Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Helping out the 'little guys'


It has oft been said that smaller, independent bookstores are finding it harder and harder to survive due to the ever-present larger chain stores that can offer the same book at discounted prices that the smaller stores just can't afford. It's a crying shame and many a good independent bookstore has had to close its doors as a result. It's hard to walk past a bargain though - human nature makes it hard to resist saving that extra $5 for a matter of principles. Thankfully, living here in Taiwan I'm not quite so riddled with guilt for not buying books from my local bookstore as they don't carry any English language books so I have to buy them from the larger chains like PageOne. Mind you, if I'm ordering from online I do try and use Better World Books or Good Books NZ as they're doing good work for worldwide literacy and Oxfam respectively.

In light of the constant struggle for survival that smaller bookstores face, this story from the Guardian was a real heart warmer and proof that those in charge of some of the larger chains are human after all and not just about the bottom line. Turns out that Lingham's, an independent store opposite UK retail giant Tesco, successfully appealed to the head honcho of Tesco to advertise the fact that their store carried many titles that Tesco didn't and were able to provide a more in-depth book-related customer service. I can hardly believe that Tesco went for the idea but certainly very glad they did. Good on them. By helping out the 'little guy' they surely won't be hurting their profit margin. Who knows. The good karma might even pay PR dividends when people are trying to figure out which supermarket to get the weekly shop from.

Inside Lingham's. 
Image credit: Rambles from my Chair

Good on you Tesco. You've made the world a slightly better place.


  1. I deal with the same feelings of guilt when purchasing from larger bookstores. In the town nearest my home, there are three major bookstore chains -- Borders, Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks, not to mention to supermarkets that carry ever-expanding book sections -- and only one independent new dealer (There are a couple of secondhand stores, also).

    The major sellers are more centrally located and, because they have larger staffs, have better hours than the independent. They also, obviously, have a much better on-hand inventory, making it really easy to go in and grab a book.

    I try really hard to visit the independent store every once in a while, just to give them an extra sale or two.

  2. Great post - I haven't read one on this topic. I have that guilt too. Our school tries to order from the local community stores, but one just recently closed. :(

    Thanks for this post. :-)

  3. Michelle - thanks for the comment :) Good on you for supporting your local stores! It is hard to do especially with less convenient locations, smaller inventory and the shorter hours so big ups to you for doing so!

    Shannon - Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yeah the dwindling number of local stores doesn't make it much easier either does it? Ah well, we're all trying to help it seems :)

  4. Wow! That is just awesome! I can't believe that Tesco went for it. But go them. I mean, like you said, it's not like they'll be losing a profit, and hopefully because of Tesco's help, the independent will be gaining a profit.

    I live in Paris, and there are very few independent book stores that sell English books. The ones that do, though, are like Shakespeare and Co and have do possibility of ever going out of business. When I go home, though, it makes me so sad, since we only have chain book stores.
    So I have to use them. . .and then I feel guilty.

  5. That's fantastic and an idea that might work well in other places. I'm as guilty as anyone for buying my books where I can find them cheaply but, to be fair to me, there's not an independent bookstore within 15 miles of me. I really think indies might be able to survive if they went to more of a specialty route.