BUT IT’S STILL OPEN FOR ANOTHER COUPLE OF WEEKS so get there quick to grab the stock at half price…
This is not quite an obituary for the Forest Bookshop – a 40-year-old independent shop in Coleford. This is partly an advertisement: all books are 50% off and they want to sell them all.
Here are the messages from Doug and the Bookshop
The latest one:
A Big Thank You to all who have sent me and our manager, Ian, such warm messages of thanks and solidarity, and good wishes to me for my retirement.
We are STILL OPEN for another few weeks while our 50% OFF SALE runs its course. The best help and support you can give us now, is to help clear our shelves by coming to the SALE. We want nothing left!
Ian and Pat are also very touched by everyone’s support and good wishes. They are as sad as I am that, without a buyer, the shop cannot go on. At the last count, 115 independent bookshops have closed over the last two years. That shocking figure and declining footfall helped me and the staff to make that inevitable decision to close by the end of April.
Nevertheless the atmosphere in the shop remains upbeat and customers are enjoying their bargains!
Good Friday: Closed
Easter Saturday: Open
Easter Monday: Closed
Open as usual until the end of April at the latest
Forest Bookshop: The Final Chapter
Our ‘Grand 50%“Thank You” Closing Sale’ is now on.
It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that the multi-award winning Forest Bookshop, after nearly 40 years trading in Coleford, is soon to close. At almost 75 years old, I have tried to retire but people just aren’t buying bookshops these days. Moreover, on-line bookshops are a growing problem for all independents (67 closed in 2013). One on-line cut-price giant remains a threat to the book trade by avoiding taxes, receiving millions in government grants, squeezing their suppliers and carriers ’til their pips squeak and by exploiting their staff. Against all the odds, we have countered the threat by providing excellent knowledgeable service and choice. We have kept many of our loyal customers, but the very day the parking charges were introduced in Coleford our footfall plummeted, as it did for other local retailers.
However, the past 40 bookselling years have seen the happiest of times. We’ve had some wonderful events, superb books have passed through our hands, we’ve worked closely with local authors and the Forest community and met so many interesting people.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all our amazing staff, past and present, and to all the Bookshop’s friends and loyal customers wherever they are.
I spent almost two years working there, and I was sad when they had to lay me off for economic reasons last November. While there I did all I could to promote the shop, put my heart and soul into it. I felt it is such a vital place for the community – and all the people passing through the area.
When I say community, I mean all sectors of it – whether those interested in maps and guide books, fiction, children’s books, local history, bestsellers, really obscure stuff, railway books, school coursebooks, philosophy, gardening, Dick Brice CDs (we may have been the only outlet for the Forest folksinger), deaf education books, lots on the poet FW Harvey, cards… well, everything really, including taking the Review ads. We had everyone from anarchists to Conservatives, people of all social classes and backgrounds as customers, we sold tickets for all sorts of community events, we were a what’s on noticeboard, a place with an armchair and teas and coffees, we took children’s authors and illustrators to schools, we hosted a festival, we were connected to other independent bookshops throughout the country, the shop won awards, and we had many friends… and so on. We had many books, and promoted many books, by local authors, we had housebound customers who we sent books to at their requests, we had loyal customers years ago moved far away, sometimes abroad, who still rang us and wrote to us requesting books. The discussions were myriad, from philosophical to being a tourist information service (we did that too after the council shut the centres down). We were a registered ‘safe place’ for anyone with mental illnesses. We gave away free books, stickers etc to encourage more young readers, we brought in top writers to give talks, readings and signings on anything from Forest of Dean poetry to the history of the English language, from the latest Doctor Who sci-fi or Andrew Taylor’s historical thrillers. There were some great social occasions, and everyone was welcome.
The simple reason why the Bookshop is closing is because its founder and owner Doug McLean is retiring, and market conditions have ensured nobody wants to take it on.
I saw the Bookshop as partly a social centre or maybe interchange, obliged to be a capitalist enterprise. But it was big money that killed it off. Just about everyone I know shops by Amazon – and have to admit I have too (though very guiltily and very infrequently). Why? Financial necessity usually, for me, as well as practical convenience. To compete with these kind of realities by being, well, more social and sociable, by helping out customers with book searches, or just having a chat about anything under the sun, proved not enough.
People in the Cotswolds are incredulous that parking charges of 40p per hour (or is it two hours?) emptied the towns of visitors as they did a few years ago. But in the past people had always expected and got free parking – they pay taxes, after all. The imposition of ANY parking charge, plus the privatisation of our public spaces, patrolled by penalty-ticket collectors, is kind of a downer here in the Forest of Dean. Having such an imposition on what was previously a non-authoritarian semi-urban atmosphere has put people off. That and the massive reduction in bus services and hikes in prices meant less people passing through.
In the two years I spent working at the Bookshop, I witnessed the impact of neoliberal economics, the big crushing the small in the name of the ‘free market’. The Bookseller magazine showed that books – which we sold by the Recommended Retail Price because we couldn’t afford to sell them cheaper – were sometimes less than the wholesale prices on their average selling price, thanks to the clout of Amazon.
Personally, I think the Bookshop could have continued as a new community venture of some sort, non-profit based. A group of us did have a few meetings about it – but everyone, including me, was too busy to really lead the project, so it didn’t happen.
Maybe I’ll revise this blog to add some more eloquent prose about the Forest Bookshop and why it is such a tragic loss that it couldn’t continue… I’m sure many people I know (and don’t know) will have fond memories of the shop over the past four decades.
My very best wishes to Doug, Pat and Ian if they should read this.