Last week – during Independent Bookshop Week – the Booksellers Association (BA) launched a petition, requesting for the government to grant bookshops the same business rates relief that pubs are afforded.
Pubs are currently offered a £1,000 discount off their bill rate, in recognition of their role as pillars of the community, and the BA believes indie bookshops should be awarded the same status. Both create jobs across the country, both bring the community together, and they are both a cultural asset to their towns.
And a petition launched on June 18 seems to suggest that the public agree, with around 4,000 people pledging their support.
— The Bookseller (@thebookseller) June 20, 2018
The BA’s president and independent bookseller Nic Bottomley said: “Business rates are a massive burden for too many bookshops. We would support a wide-scale review and update of the business rates system as called for by many retail leaders after House of Fraser’s sad announcements last week.
“In the meantime though, as a first step and as a matter of urgency, we are asking for a specific business rates exception for bookshops. Bookshops bring vitality to the high street at a time when the high street is under constant threat. Every high street is richer for having a bookshop and poorer for not having one.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
There was never a more crucial time to give bookshops a hand up, as they compete with online and high street giants like Amazon and Waterstones. Since 1995, when Jeff Bezos’ juggernaut first formed, over half the UK’s bookshops have closed their doors.
Independent bookshops are central to community around the UK and The Big Issue has long championed for their preservation with our #WhyBooksMatter campaign. This year we are also supporting the Independent Bookshop Alliance as indie bookshops join forces to compete with the big boys for bargaining with publishers.
Their importance is demonstrated by last year’s Bookselling Britain report from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR). The study highlighted that “the bookselling sector contributes up to £1.9 billion to GDP to the UK economy each year, providing 46,000 jobs and making an estimated contribution to the UK Exchequer of £131million in taxes”.
Meryl Halls, managing director at the BA, added: “We aim to make ever clearer to government the clear link between bookshops and healthy communities and thriving and diverse high streets – and to make sure that the government acknowledges – as it has already for pubs – the crucial role that bookshops play in the cultural, social and economic landscape of their communities.”