Next Generation funds will allow for the creation of a Book School
The first part of the XXV Bookstore Congress focused on the announcement of the creation of a Book School, the analysis of the Bookstore Map 2022, and the assessment of public procurement processes in bookstores.
The first morning of work of the XXV Bookstore Congress, organized by the Spanish Confederation of Booksellers’ Guilds and Associations (CEGAL) has hosted the presentation of projects for bookstores and for the book value chain in the period 2021-2023 financed by Next Generation resilience funds, the results of the first qualitative study of customer service at the point of sale executed with the methodology ‘the mysterious customer’, the Bookstore Map 2022, local and European experiences of public procurement to assess how it can benefit the entire book chain.
«We are working with European funds on a great Book School not only for booksellers but also for the entire ecosystem, in order to improve processes, relationships, logistics, accounting, marketing, digital skills, extra or metaliterary skills, etc.,» announced María José Gálvez, director-general of Books and Reading Promotion, when talking about the projects for bookstores and for the book value chain that will be launched with the Next Generation resilience funds. «These are transformational funds and that’s what we’re talking about, transforming bookstores.»
The mystery customer, some suggestions for improvement
«What is not measured, does not exist,» said Nathaly Cano, consultant at Qualimetrie, the company responsible for the first customer service quality study at the point of sale applied to a sample of 25 bookstores across the country using the mystery customer methodology. «The diagnosis serves as a starting point to create a project to improve the customer experience».
According to the mystery shopper, Spanish bookstores stand out for the cleanliness and tidiness of both the shop windows and the stores, and for the friendliness of the booksellers.
The study reveals two weaknesses: the arguments (the lack of products to complete the purchase and the lack of return options) and the checkout process (gift vouchers are not always offered, customer files are not always made or the invoice is not always sent by e-mail, for example). However, overall, only 16% of the bookstores received a negative rating.
Similarly, 81% of customers recommend a particular bookstore on the basis of its friendliness, while 60% prefer not to recommend certain establishments because of a lack of clarity in their return policy.
Map of Bookstores, the most accurate census
The main objective and challenge of the Map of Bookstores in Spain 2022, prepared by CEGAL, with the collaboration of the General Directorate of Books and Reading Promotion of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, has been to delimit the size of the sector: independent bookstores (less than 25 points of sale) in which books account for at least 30% of annual turnover have been included. Using this criterion, 2,977 bookstores were counted, which means 6.2 independent bookstores per 100,000 inhabitants (8.3 in municipalities with more than 500,000 inhabitants). Physical bookstores, but no strangers to digital: 67% have a website, 87% have social networks and 93% have a Google My Business listing. The workforces, in which women predominate, have an average of 2.8 permanent employees.
In a comparative study with the 2016 data, a favorable progression is observed: the book turnover has increased, the range of products offered in the points of sale has expanded and the work teams have been strengthened with more professionals on staff and less temporality. During these 6 years, there has also been a positive increase in the digital presence (mainly through social networks) and a decrease in turnover in textbook sales.
This 2022 report has also paid attention to the sector’s good commercial, social and environmental practices, which corroborate the work performed by professionals as cultural prescribers and facilitators of change.
«While the assessment of the evolution and future projection is positive, there are several challenges that the sector must face in the short term, such as the aging of the workforce, business concentration through large chains, and support for rural bookstores so that they can continue to offer their service,» concludes Álvaro Manso, spokesman for CEGAL and responsible for the presentation of this report at the Bookstore Congress.
Public procurement benefits the entire book chain
«We believe that bookstores are the pillars of their communities,» says Daniel Martin of the European and International Booksellers Federation, who after presenting experiences from France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and Finland pointed out that in public procurement processes small bookstores are at a disadvantage.
The rise of manga
Oriol Estrada Rangil was in charge of familiarizing booksellers with manga. «Manga is now a whole publishing phenomenon, and despite having been with us for 30 years, it seems that it is still a great unknown. We have to seize the moment, so that we can get to know it better,» he explains. «There are a lot of doubts about the contents, and there may still be concerned parents. So I think it’s vital that booksellers, those on the front lines, can master the different demographics, genres, and particularities of the manga world.»
During the pandemic, manga sales increased by 70%, an upward trend that continues. «Manga is the gateway to the world of comics and reading for many young people, and it also has a great capacity to retain readers with proposals that adapt to the reader’s moment in life. So it should have a great value in terms of promoting reading among young people».
At the inauguration, in the Joaquín Leguina Regional Library of Madrid, the Minister of Culture and Sport, Miquel Iceta, encouraged booksellers to join the Bono Joven Cultural program and encouraged applause when he announced that it cannot be used for online purchases.
Previously, the Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Sport of the Community of Madrid, Marta Rivera de la Cruz had said that «giving life to bookstores is an obligation we all have».