Support from the Local Enterprise Office in Tipperary has been key to helping The Bookworm in Thurles compete with chain retailers following an overhaul to their online e-commerce store.
The independent retailer, which has been a staple fixture in Thurles since 1993, availed of an Online Trading Voucher to upgrade their existing website earlier this year and now stock more than 1,000 titles online across multiple genres and age demographics.
“We had a niche website prior to the first lockdown with a focus on local interest books however now we're selling ‘bestsellers’ online and we're well positioned to compete with all major retailers,” says owner John Butler.
“Support from the Tipperary LEO has been vital to shops and businesses all over the county this year,” he adds.
With many publishers delaying the release of books earlier in the year due to lockdown, John says book lovers are spoilt for choice this Christmas.
“Irish published books are very popular this year. Old Ireland in Colour, Luke O’Neill’s book and Paddy Stapleton’s Up in the Air have been extremely popular so far.”
“During lockdown people looked to books as an escape from the constant news updates and there was definitely a shift in the general public as they became much more aware of their local retailers. There is a willingness there to support local which will hopefully continue after the pandemic,” he says.
Ongoing Brexit negotiations are also another concern for many independent retailers who rely on suppliers in the UK.
“In terms of Covid we can build our online presence and adapt however Brexit is out of our hands. An increase in tariffs and possible distribution delays would be very significant for retailers as a very high percentage of books come from UK publishers,” warns John.
The Bookworm, which also runs a coffee shop, haberdashery, as well as selling musical instruments, is open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 6pm.