Book stores in Belgium are in pretty bad shape, according to the Syndicat neutre pour indépendants (SNI – Neutral Union for Independents), which says three such establishments closed their doors per fortnight in 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of book stores in the country decreased by 17.8%, plunging from 3,950 in late 2011 to 3,248 five years later, according to the SNI, which represents freelancers, members of the liberal professions and small and medium-sized companies.
“Few other commercial activities have been affected as much in recent years,” says SNI president Christine Mattheeuws. The SNI advises book stores to evolve and broaden the range of goods and services they offer if they wish to survive.
According to the union, bookstores have three major sources of income, each accounting for close to a third of their earnings: newspapers and magazines, lottery products and tobacco. All three segments have come under attack from all sides in recent years, it says.
“Since most newspaper and magazine publishers encourage their readers through promotions and incentives to take out subscriptions, bookstores are seeing not only fewer visitors, but also fewer store sales. Moreover, newspapers are being read increasingly often in digital form on smartphones or tablets,” the SNI explained.
Various anti-tobacco measures have also cut into the bookstores’ profit margins and people tend increasingly to buy their lottery tickets on line rather than in book stores.
“We advise book stores to evolve and expand their range of goods and services,” the SNI president said. “Since the trend now is buying goods through web shops, it’s advisable to function as a pick-up point. Moreover, the range of products can be expanded from toys, books, greeting cards and paper. A greater supply will doubtless attract more clients.”