YEP Says (Jan 18): Closure of small traders can risk a city’s identity

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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THE death of independent bookstores may have been exaggerated, but they are facing an uncertain future.

And this should worry any town or city centre manager.

The news that another Leeds bookshop is closing makes for depressing reading. After nearly 30 years in business The Bookshop Kirkstall has announced plans to close in May.

Shop owner Roy Brooks, blames the decline, in part, on technological developments and what he describes as a reluctance in our modern world towards reading. We sincerely hope he is wrong, certainly in terms of the latter part of his statement.

But his is not a unique story. Many independent bookstores have struggled to keep their heads above water in the face of a rising tide of e-books and cheaper prices online.

The irony though is that last year e-books sales hit a plateau which coincided with a rise in book sales in the UK.

High street book chains are playing a canny game, of course; their stores have become almost leisure experiences; operating cafe franchises and selling general gifts, cards and stationery.

But, and this is key, our high streets need the independents, the local traders, the small businesses, to preserve an area’s unique character; to attract the tourist and the shopper; to give them something different.

Without them, each street becomes a replica of another and, frankly, where is the attraction in that?

If we want to keep these local traders who add such value to our cities, we must, must, MUST use them. Because otherwise we will lose them. And once they’re gone they’re unlikely to return.