Watkins Bookshop: 1897-2010
On the 23rd February it was announced that Watkins Bookshop – London’s oldest esoteric bookshop – went into administration, with 11 members of staff being made redundant. Unless a buyer for the business emerges by 25th March, the business will be liquidated.
Watkins had struggled to keep going for the last few years – yet another example of an independent bookshop hit by the collapse of the Net Book Agreement which allowed supermarkets to take over the bestseller market and demand huge discounts from publishers. Watkins Review editor Stephen Gawtry recently gave a good example of how this affected the shop: When “The Da Vinci Code” first came out in paperback, Watkins was buying copies from the wholesaler at around £4.50, while up the road Tescos in Covent Garden was selling it for around £3.50. I heard of one independent bookseller who drove to his supermarket and filled up a trolley with the latest Jamie Oliver book, as it was far cheaper than getting it from his regular supplier. Since the withdrawal of the NBA in 1997, over 500 independent bookshops in the UK have closed. The rise of online booksellers such as Amazon also impacted on Waktins’ business, and the current owners had inherited a £500,000 tax bill from the previous administration, which they are said to have struggled to contest for two years with HM Revenue and Customs, but to no avail.
This is a sad day for London’s esoteric community. Watkins will be sorely missed. So, please, where you can – support your local esoteric bookshop!