IT’S OFFICIAL – as if local book-lovers didn’t already know – The Haslemere Bookshop has been crowned the best book shop in the south east at this year’s British Book Awards.
The much-loved High Street independent emerged victorious from a list of decorated finalists featuring multiple former winners.
A winner itself in 2016, judges hailed The Haslemere Bookshop as “a prominent part of its local community”, having been taken over by loyal supporters Cathy and Ian Rowley in 2014.
It is now, alongside the eight other regional and country winners, in contention for the overall Independent Bookshop of the Year Award, to be announced at the British Book Awards winner ceremony at Grosvenor House in London on Monday, May 23.
The overall Independent Bookshop of the Year winner will also compete to be crowned Book Retailer of the Year.
Responding to the news, Emily Adsett, The Haslemere Bookshop manager, said: “We’re completely over the moon to be the regional winners!
“We genuinely didn’t expect it – we were in such a strong category with so many brilliant bookshops!
“More than anything, we’re just really proud – it’s been such a tough two years and this recognition means a lot.”
The Mayor of Haslemere, Simon Dear, also congratulated the bookshop on its second South East Bookshop of the Year award in six years.
He said: “For many years, the Haslemere Bookshop has been providing a service you simply can’t get online. “They stock maps, fiction, classics non-fiction, poetry, all sorts and have always seemed very knowledgeable about their subject and this has obviously been appreciated by the judges as much as it is by their customers. “To have won the South East England Bookshop of the Year is a fantastic achievement and the whole town will be behind them at the National Finals at the end of May.”
Sponsored by Gardners and supported by The Booksellers Association, the award celebrates nine inspiring bookshops, selected from a list of 63 finalists, which have continued to support their local communities during these turbulent times with their insider knowledge, inclusivity, digital innovations, adapted events, and, of course, books.
The Haslemere Bookshop suffered like everyone else at the start of the pandemic, with its book sales dropping some 90 per cent as the UK went into its first lockdown in spring 2020.
But Cathy and Ian quickly adapted to the ‘new normal’ and reopened the shop in June 2020, selling books from a table in their doorway, and also offered free delivery to house-bound customers.
They even attracted a few new customers from further afield, with deliveries dispatched to the likes of Germany and Denmark.
Manager, Emily, added: “As always we are extremely grateful to our wonderful customers for their continued support – they are the life of the bookshop and we would not be here without them!”
Tom Tivnan, The Booksellers’ managing editor, said: “This was undoubtedly the most competitive year we have ever had for Independent Bookshop of the Year, and these nine shops should feel justly proud for claiming their regional and country crowns when their fellow indies have also been flourishing. Indies are thriving and the number of shops is rising. It may be counter-intuitive to say, but we just may be in the golden age of independent book-selling.”
The Haslemere Bookshop is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.
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