Read all about it - gifts in bookshops

More increasingly gift and stationery products are playing a leading part in the success of the book industry. Kerri Littlefield at from you to me investigates.

Traditionally for bookshops, gifts and stationery are seen as add-on products, but is this changing? While some bookshops insist that books are still their core business, many have come to realise that to succeed in the competitive bookshop world they need to consider ‘non-book’ items.

Book wholesaler, Bertrams report that sales of gift products to bookshops have almost doubled in the last two years, and many high street bookshops are reporting big successes in gift sales.

Foyles Bookstore Foyles Bookstore

Foyles Bookstore gift buyer, Abel Dos Santos insists that gifts and stationery have become an increasingly important part of their business success, with many stores featuring a prominent showcase of gift items occupying a good proportion of front of house retail space.

“Foyles has given prime location, dedicated staff and resources to the gift and stationery department which shows we’ve invested in the industry.”

Dos Santos believes that, as the Foyles gift and stationery section grows, customers are offered a one-stop-shop, so they can get ‘much more than just their next book’.

The growth of gifts isn’t without it’s challenges, however. Dos Santos admits that the biggest challenge is the merchandising, as all the products are different.

“A customer will pick up a book and read the synopsis then decide to buy the book. For gifts and stationery the synopsis is the display. The customer sees it and sees how the products work together and can imagine how it would fit into their life."

Foyles’ future focus is to move away from the massive multi chain environment and to offer more unique, individual products in a more ‘boutique-like’ setting. Gifts will play an important role in this.

Smaller independent bookshops have a different challenge – space. It’s hard for smaller retailers to devote front of house space to gifts when they believe that books are very much their core business. Topping Bookshop, which has branches in Bath and Ely, insist that cards, wrap and stationery are very much an ‘up sell’ to the book purchase. They offer these items as a helpful convenience for their customers, not to draw them into the shop in the first place. As Topping manager, Jonny Richardson says, ‘We offer cards and wrap that fit in with the ethos of our shop, and these products are very much an add-on’.

So while traditionally many bookshops have felt that stationery and gifts don’t quite fit, or that they ‘water down’ their core book offering, many are feeling the need to be more creative in their offering to customers. As Foyles say, “We’re always looking for new and interesting suppliers and categories that fit in with the stories we are trying to tell.”

This article was published in Gift Focus magazine, Jan/Feb issue, the UK's leading trade magazine for the giftware industry: www.giftfocus.com