OK Comics Thornton Arcade: Leeds bookseller says he's never worked harder amid cost of living crisis

The owner of a long-standing shop in Leeds city centre has spoken about the "worrying" state of the industry.
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Bookseller Jared Myland founded city centre bookshop OK Comics 21 years ago. The small bookshop which specialises in comics and graphic novels was opened during a time Jared believes was not only "good" for trade but also far easier to start a business.

The last few years have been plagued with financial difficulties for businesses, "with so much against high street retail".

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Brexit, lockdowns, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and a change in consumer habits including more people working from home has contributed to the decline, Jared added.

OK Comics, located in Thornton's Arcade, Leeds. Photo: OK ComicsOK Comics, located in Thornton's Arcade, Leeds. Photo: OK Comics
OK Comics, located in Thornton's Arcade, Leeds. Photo: OK Comics

And as one of the longest standing retailers in Thornton’s Arcade, Jared said it is “heartbreaking” to see businesses - and friends - come and go due to financial challenges.

The 49-year-old recalls a few businesses which offered excellent customer service and goods but have had to close their doors for good.

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One such business Tall Boys Beer Market, formerly located in Thornton's Arcade, was “ahead of the game”, Jared said.

He added: “At the time, they were just doing it better than anybody else. They were really smart guys, they were really good to the customers, they knew the product inside and out. But they just couldn't make it work.

“I'm the same as those guys. I work hard, I put my life into the business and it’s heartbreaking when you see people having to move to something - I guess, the word is - less. From being your own boss, making your own decisions to just having a regular job.”

Despite being rooted in Leeds city centre for more than two decades, and establishing a strong customer base, the bookseller finds the decline of independent businesses “worrying”.

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He said: "There are shops that are not 21 years old, just starting out that don't have the benefit of two decades worth of service.

"It's difficult to encourage customers to think of you fondly, to remember you, if you've only been there a little while. That's the worry - new independents are coming through to replace the ones that have fallen by the wayside. And I'm not just talking about comic shops and bookshops, I’m talking about everything."

Jared added: "I have spoken about it on social media and a lot of people were saying ‘my local comic shop closed’ and ‘my favourite small business closed’ and it brings home how real that possibility is. 

“We're really lucky that we've got a lot of regular customers and we have an open dialogue with them, whether it be over the counter or online.” 

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OK Comics has made significant changes the last few years to combat the challenges, from choosing stock carefully and making sure there's a real demand for the items in the shop to creating an online website and switching over to mail orders to retain customers during the pandemic.

It's been a difficult journey for the bookseller to stay afloat but he said there is nothing he would rather do instead.

Jared added: "I didn't realise I would still be working quite so long and hard. I think, at this time of my life, I would have slowed down a little bit. I manage to leave at seven o'clock every morning. I'm still working like 60 hours a week. But I don't want to do anything else. 

“I think we'll still be here in ten years, I can't see that changing really. We have fantastic customers. If we let them know that we're having a tough time, they'll spend money, they'll chat about us online. They’re friends to us and we're really lucky like that. I love comics but the customers are the best thing about the shop."

Find out more information about OK Comics via its website and social media channels.

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