September’s Bookshop of the Month takes us up towards Liverpool to Pritchards Bookshop, which has been proudly serving the Crosby area for over 40 years. With its wide selection of current titles, full ordering service (including out-of-print books) and impressive events schedule, Pritchards’ is dedicated to the local Crosby community. We spoke to the shop’s founder and manager, Steve, to find out more about this legacied and well-loved independent.
1. Tell us about the history of Pritchards Bookshop. How did you come to run this celebrated independent bookstore in the heart of Crosby?
My mother and brother opened the first branch in 1974 in Ormskirk. When I left university, I opened a branch in Crosby after four months searching for a site in the Merseyside area. I chose Crosby as it had excellent schools and a population that I thought could support an independent bookshop. I always had a passion for books even though my degree was in Nuclear Physics and Maths, and I thought I could make the business pay. My brother left the business in 1977 and the Ormskirk branch closed, but the Crosby shop thrived with strong links to the local schools.
2. Under normal circumstances, Pritchards Bookshop has a bustling events schedule boasting frequent author visits and book launches. What has been your favourite (or most memorable) event since opening this store?
Crosby is blessed with an abundance of talent – authors and musicians. Pritchards Bookshop has held countless events over the years. From politicians to sporting stars, we must’ve hosted nearly all the Liverpool and Everton greats from 60’s onwards!
My most memorable event was with Ian McNabb of the legendary band the Icicle works – he did an impromtu acoustic set our small shop. Many years ago, Edwina Currie popped in just before I was closing to buy something. Fortunately, we had some of her novels so I got her to sign them.
The events list is endless really: mammoth Jaqueline Wilson events where the queues stretched for miles! – she spent 3 hours signing everything she was presented with – a true star! We used to do literary lunches from Gerald Durrell to Lord Hailsham – you’re too young. Liverpool greats Beryl Bainbridge, Willy Russell, Roger McGough and George Melly, too.
3. Pritchards Bookshop was established over forty-five years ago. How has bookselling changed over this time?
Bookselling was very different in the 70’s. Publishers Representatives were thick on the ground before the amalgamations and take overs, which made buying new books fun and interesting, they also helped with stock orders. Customer orders were sent by post and took a couple of weeks to arrive! Small regional wholesalers’ van service helped with basic stock.
The rise of Bookshop Chains brought bookshops onto the main high street making general city independent bookselling difficult, but out in the suburbs, we continued to thrive, winning Independent Bookshop of the year in 1990.
The end of the Net Book Agreement, competition from Supermarkets, Internet selling, e-books, relocation due to a failed redevelopment and several recessions have provided bumps along the road, but customers keep coming through my door!
4. Since reopening this summer, what types of books are your customers buying? Have you noticed a shift in the books people are interested in lately?
Our hats go off to a long list of local saga novelists – Elizabeth Elgin, Maureen Lee, Joan Jonker and Lyn Andrews. And to those who are greatly missed – Katie Flynn and Crosby’s adopted daughter Ruth Hamilton. In some ways, it’s sad when you add authors to a shelf and remember what was once there. Whole rows of backlist that are now gone! Its just like the end of Goodbye, Mr Chips.
But that’s the beauty of bookselling. It’s mutable. Always a constant flow of the exciting and new. And always suprising.
Customers seem to be staying away from the city and staying with us. We’ve stayed very busy. Girl, Woman, Other is still doing very well, but I feel there is a real hankering for uplifting lighter fiction too. Beth O’Leary – The Switch, and Crosby’s own Debbie Johnson – Maybe One Day. Children’s and crime fiction as always is very strong.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop in the coming months that you’d like to share with us?
Hopefully, by Christmas we’ll be able to host our annual Book reps Christmas party. We held a magnificent one when the shop was 40 years old (above). There were reps past and present, some of which are sadly no longer with us, too.
We’re planning a push on our Instagram account this year as well. The fantastic Frank Cottrell Boyce is also a customer and we’re liaising to promote his online readings and bookclub. And, after 46 years in the book trade, I am looking forward to handing the shop on – when I find the right person to take it forward.