Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Are Oxfam the Tesco of the secondhand book trade?...

I'm not going to complain about the Oxfam book and music shop that's about to open in Tonbridge High Street. There'd be no point; it's all been said before by other members of the book trade who complain that their sales have halved in the face of such unfair competition and that they've held on as long as they could before being forced to close their doors for good. I won't even complain, no really I won't, that they pay only 20% of business rates and that their staff are volunteers. They have been described, not by me, as the Tesco of the secondhand book trade, with over 700 shops in the UK selling books and over 130 (and growing) dedicated to books only. They are the biggest secondhand book chain in Europe if not the world, but I'm not going to complain like many others, including the PBFA, the booksellers trade body. Like I said it's all been said before like in this Guardian report last year about what effect the Salisbury shop has had. There's no doubt about it that it will effect Mr. Books' trade probably more so at the bottom end of the market, less so on the more collectable books but I won't lose sleep over it;. After all Oxfam are a great cause and do alot of brilliant work in third world countries as has been demonstated with the recent Haiti emergency. Competitition is good, it sharpens you up, it makes you think how you have to improve your services to do better than the competition. I can always buy their best stock from them, look at how they price their books and learn from them. If all else fails I can always go and offer my services to them or go back and work in the media again if they'll still have me

17 comments:

Paul Bailey said...

Mixed feelings on this one TB. Disappointed that yet another charity shop is opening in the High Street, but in the absence of anywhere in Tonbridge selling CD's, might just be tempted to pop in there.
Have to agree with the Grauniad's report though - definitely unfair competition.

alesteir crowley said...

I'm not going to complain either that they if they look like corporates, are the size and form of corporates then they will behave like corporates and will bulldoze anything in their way without conscience because these are people fuelled by righteous moral zeal and incentivised by competitive packages. I won't complain that this is an organistion of power and global reach but size 22 clod-hopping domestic colaterally damaging feet. I went without dinners for weeks to donate to Oxfam as a young zealot. Now, having to (finally) close my shop, I feel like one of those SA men saluting Hitler as the piano wire is slipped round my neck. At 61 I won't get another job. I suppose I could always volunteer. Do they have volunteer financial traders? I'm sure I could lose fortunes as easily as the chinless. Hey, wouldn't Oxy Foxy make more money selling junk-mortgages? Why are they fiddling around with poxy secondhand books? Where could I get some secondhand kindles? I'm not going to complain -as Oxfam would say "Charity Work is business and in busines the weak must go to the wall - there is no room for compassion " You can't really complain, can you?

Paul Bailey said...

Like your post Mr Crowley - had to say that in case you tried some of your black magic on me!

Seriously, you make a valid pont about charity being big, corporate business these days. The trouble is here are now hundreds of "psuedo" charities, all calling themselves such in order to qualify for the various tax exemptions, and other perks, offered to charities by HMCR.

What is even more worrying is that many of these so-caled charities are nothing more than pressure groups that have grown rich on hand-outs from the tax-payer. Groups like ASH and Alcohol Concern have agendas designed to take away our freedom to enjoy certain perfectly legal and, to some, particularly enjoyable substances. Others have an even more sinister agenda.

The righteous moral zeal you mention in your post, often borders on fanaticism with the people behind these charities. Some are government backed. Many want to restrict our freedoms. When they hide behind the mask of a charity then it is the time to act scared. The iron fist in the velvet glove - not much different to piano wire at the end of the day!

Anonymous said...

so TB.. you say you're going to have to change what you're doing slightly to compete with Oxfam?

Bit hypocritical aren't you considering you always have a pop at other Tonbridge firms for doing exactly that?

One example you constantly drag up is the Courier, who had to change in order to survive and part of that was closing the Tonbridge office and sacking community correspondents.

Yes it's a shame and I think the paper has suffered somewhat because of that.

But would you rather they closed down altogether and then there would be no voice for the town whatsoever?

I think the same applies to you - you are part of the community and if you have to change then people should accept it because it's best to have Mr Books in some form or other rather than no Mr Books at all.

Tonbridge blogger said...

Alesteir Crowley, when he's not having a mystical pop at TB, makes some interesting points. By the way he owns My Back Pages, formerly John Adams Bookshop in the arcade opposite Sainsbury's, so he knows what he's on about having been in the trade many years. When I went into his shop only yesterday evening, as I often do combining it with a trip to the post office (Oh what a joyous life I lead!) the manager in there (Ranulf?) asked me what am I going to do? "Carry on!" was my succinct answer for what else can I do. Oxfam may have become a bit too powerful in the secondhand book world but at least they're not a bank with no scrupples or a chocolate company who will always buy the cheapest ingredients no matter what the cost to our health and the environment. No, Oxfam's heart is very firmly in the right place it's just sometimes I don't think they stop to consider the cost to local businesses, which after all are the lifeblood of any town or certainly should be. I'll carry on moving forward, pausing only occsionally to look back, and see where it gets me....

The Tomahawk Kid said...

It does seem unfair that charity shops get special treatment for rates etc. Although I accept that the fundraising is very worthwhile, they should not have an unfair advantage over local traders, particularly when they are selling the same products. Charity shops should pay full business rates the same as other businesses. Perhaps if they did we wouldn't have our high streets dominated by them.

Personally I would rather see small businesses, such as Mr Books etc, thriving and let the charities raise their funds in different ways.

Anonymous said...

Just a small note to the Anonymous who wrote about the sacking of the community correspondents. You can have it on very good authority that The Courier did no such thing. They did not sack correspondents - the correspondents left for their own valid reasons. I hope this is now clear.

Anonymous said...

why does tonbridge need another charity shop!!! i thought that would have been the last we saw of oxfam when it closed a few years back what a waste of a good shop i wonder whats going into allsorts?

and oxfam isnt a good charity to support as the money dosent actully go to causes it goes to corrupt goverments!!!

Tonbridge blogger said...

In the Courier's case I think, since they are part of the Daily Mail group, I really wouldn't care too much if they closed down altogether!

Anonymous said...

I dont know what your feeling on this will be but why not set up a facebook page for the Mr Books shop? People will add it to their facebook profile, others will see it, be curious, like what they see and then add it themselves. Its like virtual word of mouth and may increase your sales a bit eventually.

Anonymous said...

Charities have been taken over by the Third Sector, and we all know who they are - dont we ?

Anonymous said...

Don't knock the Daily Mail TB, it's a really succesful paper, that's done a good job of frightening the elderly for over a century.

Anonymous said...

Fear not Tonbridgians! We are to get a new launderette, opening up soon in Sarf Tonbridge. It's proximity to Lidl will enable the Staffie and pushbike brigade to shop for cheap German crisps whilst their trackie bottoms are purged of Greggs steak bake and Blue WKD stains at the same time.

Tonbridge blogger said...

Every town needs a good launderette. Hope they get a nice friendly Dot Cotton-type lady in their minus the fag sticking out the corner of her mouth!...

Tonbridge said...

How about a nice butchers in the centre of town?

By the way Tonbridge Blogger i've finally got myself an account and am no longer one of the anonymous ones!

Anonymous said...

HA HA HA HA
WHAT A WASTE OF TIME ON THAT OXFAM CHARITY SHOP........
AN OLD MAN IS WRITING FROM HIS Mysterious MIND AND WORRING ABOUT HIS OWN BUSINESS..... WHAT HAPPEND WHEN HE WAS COMPLAINING ABOUT OTHER BUSINESSES IN TOWN LIKE CUSTOMER SERVICES AND LOOKS AND SO CALLLED UPPER MARKET BUSINESS(NO MATTER IT PROFITS OR NOT)....
NICE TO SEE WASTING YOUR TIME ON JUST THE TOPIC OF OXFAM.....

THINK FREE MARKETING FOR OXFAM... ISNT IT?

LETS START ANOTHER TOPIC... I THINK RATHER THAN SHOUTING ON BUSINESES WHY NOT CRACK ON GOVRMENT.. WE ALL KNOW WHATS HAPPENING.. RAISE OUR VOICE AND GIVE IT TO COUNCIL

Anonymous said...

Well my son described Oxfam as a business-charity shop did not enter into it- our local one also home counties had a refit complete with vigilante cameras- cost would have fed many of the poor in Africa & elsewhere & what abou the less fortunate on our doorsteps. Oxfam seems unwilling or too blind to see them