Machynlleth, an ancient market town in Mid-Wales, supports 4 bookshops: Dyfi Valley Bookshop (used and antiquarian books), Coch-y-Bonddu Books (angling, game shooting, sporting dogs and falconry), the newly opened Literary Cat Books, and Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop — opened by Diane Bailey and Geoff Young ten years ago, not “so that we can make a lot of money” but “because books are important.” These independent booksellers specialize in “books that we are happy to have on the shelves, books that mean something to us” especially photography, politics, Welsh writers (in Welsh or English) and interesting fiction. The shop is just a few doors from the MOMA Machynlleth art gallery with which they have close links, and they write a regular photography feature for the O’r Pedwar Gwynt literary newspaper. I spoke with them shortly after they had re-opened for browsing.
Anne Brichto and Derek Addyman opened Addyman Books in 1986, Murder and Mayhem in 1997, and in 2003 the Addyman Annex. All three stores are within walking distance of each other in the book town of Hay-on-Wye. The stores specialize in collectable and antiquarian detective fiction, science fiction, classic paperbacks, modern First editions, children’s books, as well as fiction and poetry. In addition to the three shops, Addyman Books sells regularly online, and Anne has maintained a popular #Bookstagram blog for several years. Anne lives upstairs in the original Addyman Books building. She spoke to me in May about the impact of the pandemic on their bookstores.
Kieron Smith is a professional bookseller with over 20 years book trade experience, including WHSmith Retail, establishing the Ottakars.co.uk website in 1999, heading up the web offering at Bertelsmann’s Book Clubs in the UK and operations at Methven’s Booksellers, followed by three years outside the industry at Europe’s leading video games website GAME.co.uk. Head of online for Waterstone’s in 2006-7 and then MD of international bookseller The Book Depository (now an Amazon company) for five years. He joined the UK’s leading Academic and Professional Bookseller, Blackwell’s, as Digital Director in 2015. Kieron is also a published author, his book The Politics of Down Syndrome (Zero Books) published in 2011.
How did the way you conduct business change due to the impact of the virus?
The Pandemic posed a number of challenges for Blackwell’s, we offer many services; for example we have High Street and campus shops, we have business to business (& institutional sales) a significant online presence – in addition to selling new, second-hand and rare books. Some of our ‘routes to market’ were significantly impeded – campus sales for example, but others came to the fore with Blackwells.co.uk and business to institutional sales (we are a supplier to the NHS for example) becoming central during lockdown.
Working in Bookselling Interview Series
Bill Samuel and Trevor Goul-Wheeker have, between them, run some of Britain’s biggest bookshops, and so we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to find out more about their careers in the industry. Bill was Vice Chairman of his family’s business Foyles bookshop for twenty years until the company was sold in 2018. In that time, he was involved in other projects such as the creation of the Emirates Literature Festival held in Dubai. He now has a place on the board of the BA and is chair of Batch. His wife Vivienne has always worked in the book trade, too, which is how they met.
Trevor, after working in the chemicals and biochemicals industries as a B2B marketeer, became managing director of Hammick’s bookshops in 1994, becoming non-executive director of books at W.H. Smith in 2003, and was chairman of Blackwell’s for ten years until 2019. He served on the council of the BA for nine years and received two British Book Awards for Marketing and Services to Bookselling. In 2012, Trevor was appointed Chair of the Business School Advisory Board at the University of Greenwich, who generously awarded him with an Honorary MBA in 2015.
We asked Bill and Trevor the same questions about their longstanding careers and their responses give a fascinating glimpse into their views on bookselling, what they love about the trade and the advice they would give to booksellers out on the shopfloor of today.