Changes at London's Big Green Bookshop
The Big Green Bookshop in London is closing its bricks-and-mortar shop January 31 after 10 years in business. In his announcement, Simon Key, who founded the bookstore with Tim West and is a leading proponent of the Independent Booksellers Alliance, said that the shop has "been doing okay, but rent and rates are an absolute monster."
Key is moving from London and will make the Big Green Bookshop an online-only operation, while West hopes to open a new, co-operative bookshop locally.
"I've absolutely loved it here in Wood Green," said Key. "We have the very best customers, who have supported the bookshop every day, from the very moment we opened over 10 years ago. These have been the most rewarding years of my working life, but sometimes things have to change. So it's time for an exciting new adventure for us. My family and I are moving out of London and starting a new version of the Big Green Bookshop.... I have loads of new ideas and plans that I'm bursting to tell you about, but it's going to take a few weeks to get these all sorted (moving house is quite time consuming!), so please do stick around. Yes, this is quite a big change, but I want it to be a positive thing for everyone and with your continued support, I really think it can be."
He told the Bookseller that the "time was right" to shift online: "The shop is doing great, it's doing fantastic but we can't afford to live in London anymore really. We haven't had a pay rise since we opened the shop. As a family we need more space and I need to think of my family.... More and more of our sales are coming from online. We've had the website since we first opened but rather than bookselling it was more for events and publicity, but it got to a point where I would get messages every day from people saying they couldn't find the book they wanted on our site. It's bittersweet to close the shop but it's really exciting and is a new challenge at a perfect time."
For his part, West is considering the formation of a co-operative for a new Wood Green shop, the Bookseller wrote. "Some of the customers were upset to see the shop go and now I'm meeting with a retired publisher about forming a co-operative and finding a space within the area," he said. "I won't name him as this is in its very early stages but he is very positive. I'm looking at reducing the size of the shop in terms of stock but expanding the program of events, clubs and societies that we do. We don't do daytime events as they take up the space we need to sell books. We are looking for a place with a smaller shop and separate space where we can do daytime events such as book groups, writing groups, comedy events, poetry workshops."
He maintains shares in the Big Green Bookshop and said he has no plans to sell them off completely after working with Key since March 2008. "The rates have doubled in 10 years. Closing wasn't something we discussed, but when Simon said he was moving away and didn't want a physical bookshop anymore, I went 'ok.' He's going to keep The Big Green Bookshop name because he built the online side and it would be churlish of me to take that away. It's perfectly reasonable."