World Book Day is Thursday 1 March and to celebrate Clare Peel talked to Tim Walker, owner of Walkers Bookshops and major advocate of promoting children’s literacy through events such as this.
Tim Walker Can we start with a little background to the business? Yes, my father opened the Oakham shop in 1972 and Stamford followed in 1978. I’m a born-andbred Rutlander and grew up in the business, so for me it’s a way of life. I started working in the shop when I was 12, which gave me an excellent grounding in bookselling and especially in customer service – something that we try hard to get right at Walkers. It was a very natural progression to develop this into a career. How do you choose which titles to stock? I do the buying and so get the great job of choosing which books to pile on our display tables in store. There are 1.2 million titles in print and sadly this needs to be whittled down to the 7,500 that we keep in stock at any one time. I follow national trends (recent ones of these have included mindfulness, adult colouring books and, currently, gin) and keep up to date with what key authors are doing to make sure that our offering is bang up to date and reflects the very best of what’s available. The two stores carry a similar stock range, although Stamford does have room for a couple of thousand more books than Oakham – there’s no big difference in terms of favourite categories in each of the two branches. The staff at Walkers are very happy to order titles in for customers, with over 300,000 available for collection the next working day. Just pop in, call or email the store, and we’ll be delighted to help. What is your approach to local authors? We always try to support local authors where we can and we’re always keen to increase our stock of local-interest books – good new books on Rutland or Stamford are extremely popular. The book world has seen enormous changes in the last decade or so, with the death of the printed book long being predicted. Recently, however, a number of reports have indicated that printed books are enjoying a resurgence. What is your take on this? I think there’ll always be a place in the market for e-books, but for now their initial newness, combined with how long we are all spending on screens, has meant that their popularity has fallen away somewhat. For many people there is still something unbeatably appealing about the physicality of the printed book. What about the battle between online retailers and high-street bookshops? I think that shopping online is great if you know what you want, but one of the strengths of the high-street bookshop is that there’s great joy in just pottering around, discovering something unexpected and wonderful tucked away on the open shelves. 12
PORTRAIT: ELLI DEAN
From 2014 until 2016 Tim was President of the Booksellers’ Association. I ask about how that impacted on his own business. It gave me a unique overview of the book trade both here and internationally, which has been invaluable with respect to Walkers, even down to the subtlest details, such as how the shops are lit for maximum customer retail experience and many of those little things that the customer will take for granted if they hit the spot. Are there any titles that look set to be big this year? One book that stands out as having been a surprise hit so far has been the much publicised one about Donald Trump, the fast-selling “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. That one’s selling very well in both Oakham and Stamford and has caught us by surprise! Finally, let’s talk about World Book Day, which this year is on Thursday 1 March. What will Walkers be doing to celebrate? As usual, we’ll be carrying the full range of World Book Day books. Every child of school age will be given a voucher – a gift from the bookseller – that they can use either in exchange for one of the World Book Day books produced specially for the occasion, or else towards the purchase of another
RUTLAND & MARKET HARBOROUGH LIVING MARCH 2018
book in store. It’s the 21st time World Book Day will have been held – an event that was set up to help improve children’s literacy, a topic very dear to my heart. I think improving literacy among youngsters is one of the most important things that we can do for them. It’s vital to encourage reluctant readers to pick up books to read, and this is a key thing about World Book Day. If a child doesn’t like reading a book, it simply means they’re reading the wrong thing. Being able to read is the gatekeeper to everything. Walkers branches are at 27 High Street, Oakham, 01572 723957, and 10 High Street, Stamford, 01780 764405, www.walkersbookshops.co.uk EVENTS AT WALKERS, STAMFORD
Book Signings: • Margaret Dickinson: 11am, Friday 23 March • Henry Blofeld, 12pm, Friday 13 April • Roger McGough, 4pm, Saturday 14 April Pop-up Poetry: • 11am–1pm, Wednesday 7 March • 11am–1pm, Saturday 14 April Verse Poetry Festival • Wednesday 11 to Sunday 15 April