The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has signed an open letter from the Scottish Retail Consortium calling for a business rates [essentially a business occupancy tax] discount for the coming financial year. The Bookseller reported that 13 leading business representative groups and industry bodies "have jointly written to the Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes. The collective call comes ahead of the unveiling of the Scottish government's budget on 9th December, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs for the 2022/23 financial year."
Noting that progress has been made in Scotland on business rates reform, the letter stresses that the sector is still struggling: "We are almost two-thirds of the way through the current financial year and store sales and shopper footfall in Scotland have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, while shop vacancies have climbed to a six-year high. As Holyrood's Finance & Public Administration Committee noted this month, many retailers have incurred significant debt through the crisis including Covid loans and tax deferrals.
"As the guardrails of taxpayer support are gradually withdrawn, retailers are ready to contribute their fair share. However, further assistance will be required in the transition. A return to full 100% business rates from April, which were at an onerous 21-year high before the pandemic, will be insurmountable for many shops."
The letter calls for a discount for all retail premises in the coming financial year to "provide a bridge" to the next revaluation in 2023. "This would support the survival of shops, the jobs they provide directly and in the supply chain, and the vitality of our high streets and retail destinations."
Book lovers worldwide know about the legendary green Bouquinistes boxes, which line the banks of the River Seine in Paris. The Local reported that Covid-19 lockdowns forced many of the booksellers to close, "meaning that a number of vacancies are now available. Bouquinistes now line a 3km stretch through the centre of Paris, operating 900 wooden stalls from which they sell their wares--some 300,000 books, stamps, cards and posters in total."
Noting that the Seine "has been described as the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves," the Local wrote that "while they do not have to pay tax or rent, the sellers, each of whom can run a maximum of four stalls in total, have been badly hit by the pandemic. Social distancing, lockdowns and a lack of tourists has had a drastic impact on their revenue."
The City of Paris is now accepting applications to fill the vacancies. "Although successful candidates must be official residents of France and registered in the health and social security system, there is no requirement to be a French citizen, although obviously speaking French is pretty necessary," the Local noted. "Selling second-hand books along the river will not lead you to riches. But the bouquinistes are in it for the lifestyle. In an interview with Le Parisien, Callais once said: 'Liberty is our main salary.' "
"The basement of a bookstore holds a lot of memories," Canadian bookseller Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C., reflected in a wistful tour--including Covid-spiked recollections of last year--of the bookshop's rich lower depths as the holiday season begins. "For the basement is where the holiday season begins, its decorations as jumbled and dusty as memory itself....
"It's safe to say a lot of us feel haunted this year. But the basement of a bookstore holds plenty of happy memories.... 2021 brings with it familiar comforts. Staff parties are back. Shoppers flow freely through the doors, and the evening crew is known to nip off for a post-work pint. But we're different, all of us. Kinder. More attentive. Sometimes, the Christmas lights winking overhead, rain streaking the windows in the early winter dark, we glance downward, hold our breaths, and hear caroling. Do you hear it, too?"
The spirit of the season is also on the minds of the staff at Kennys Bookshop in Galway, Ireland, which posted on Facebook: "We always love when this time of year comes around! Our traditional Christmas book tree is now up!" --Robert Gray