Giving a little background into the issue of the retail challenge, David Lonsdale of the Scottish Retail Consortium questions, “What’s happening, why, and what can we do about it?”
Problems are manifold – the impact of structural change, people are spending less in town centres and more online. These disruptions are forcing retailers to evaluate their current business models, given facts that 50% of purchases now occur on phones and tablets. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There remains a craving for social communities and destination retail.
Legislation could help, but can we secure a more favourite policy regime? David says most MSPs are familiar with the retail industry and hold a favourable view, so there is hope.
“We have a good story to tell but often retail is taken for granted.”
His closing considerations are: Can we take advantage of the growing population and disposable income? How do we get everyone to wake up to problems in the industry? And, how do we tell that story?
Canongate’s Jenny Todd follows his overview of the climate, aiming to discuss how we as an industry can respond, and how those within the book industry can work together.
“Digital is transformative,” she says, and within that there are winners and losers, but there remains one constant: change. The element of control in this ever changing climate is that we choose our response.
Books are art, they’re culture, a necessity, but they’ve never been easy to make money from. No model will be able to make a quick buck. Jenny asks you to picture a world in which there are no books and you have planned the whole industry, seeking investment from Dragon’s Den.
This product will change the world, revolutionise education, and freedom of speech. Deborah Meaden asks you to quantify the model, and they laugh you out the room. It’s not a model you could pitch to investors like that, but it’s still flourished for generations. It’s the culture that matters most.
“Readers are our most powerful weapon,” she continues, showing a video from The Humans author Matt Haig, in which fans read out their favourite line from a particular chapter. They’re real readers, and in a digital world it’s so easy to get lost in the number of followers, rather than the quality of them shown through their passion.
“They show passionate advocacy in a way other products can’t,” she adds. “They are readers, they’re like us. They like books. They care.”
As a closing thought, she turns to the growth of the children’s sector, which has proven the most robust in terms of the digital movement. They’re still reading like crazy, and they’re the readers of the future. If you have any fear of whether the industry can survive, take a moment to look at the #cantlivewithoutbooks campaign and videos. They’re the future of books.