Yarmouth book store closes-but web awaits

AN independent book shop has closed after three-and-a half years in the town – but a niche internet offshoot is opening up a new chapter for its owner.

Martin Blackwell, 54, the man behind Books Inside, said this week he was “philosphical” about the failure of his business in a tough trading sector dominated by big players with better buying power.

He said despite a prime spot in Market Gates it was impossible to get on a firm financial footing and the shop had never made money.

In the end a combination of high rents, increased competition with the arrival of The Works discount book chain, and changes to the way people acquire books meant he had to let go of the dream, set up with money left to him by his mother.

However, there was one area neglected by the big players where an independent stood a chance – books, art and maps of local interest.

Buoyed by the appetite for nostalgia and local reference Mr Blackwell and his team have spent two years classifying books, maps, DVDs and paintings by place creating what he believes could be a unique online shop covering the whole of UK and Ireland.

The former town centre manager, who also ran Great Yarmouth’s WH Smith store, said although Britain’s love of literature remained undimmed, people were buying them in different ways and more cheaply than he could.

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“I do not think the e-book has made a big impact yet but if you look at the music scene those shops have nearly all gone, those that remain diversifying into other things. I do not think books will go that way, there is something special about holding a book that you do not get with an e-book.

“At Books Inside we were undone by a couple of things. Everyone thinks the competition is Amazon but it is also Asda and Tesco because they sell books cheaper than I can buy them.

“In Market Gates we also lost the calendar stall to a national retailer which was profitable and directed people into Books Inside. Then just before last Christmas when The Works opened it became increasingly difficult.”

Having set up the business “for the love of it” he was sad to be bowing out after a last-ditch shift to Books Upstairs, above Sentiments greetings cards.

Mr Blackwell hopes to see customers at this year’s Christmas fayre when he will be selling books at St Nicholas’ Church. For local material anywhere in the UK or Ireland visit www.localgiftstore.com