Happy tale as ‘friendly competitors’ team up

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Kennys Bookshop in the city’s Liosbaun Retail Park on a Friday morning in December would give Santa’s workshop a run for its money as staff gather and package books, to be delivered to customers on time for Christmas.

The previous Friday, in the city centre, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop was buzzing as their children’s books specialist Ruth Concannon, dressed as a Christmas tree, hosted a Big Book Show where people aged 7-17 became reviewers for the evening.

Charlie Byrne’s and Kennys are synonymous with Galway and while they’re in the same business, they are, according to Karen Kenny, “the world’s friendliest competitors”.

They have now joined forces for a campaign encouraging people to buy books from Galway’s independent bookshops. And if you haven’t seen their excellent promotional video yet, check it out on their websites or on Facebook.

The rise in online shopping sites such as Amazon has had a huge impact on local bookshops, and, says Karen, there are only about 30 independent specialist bookshops retailers left in Ireland.

A report compiled by Virgin Media shows that online spending in Ireland is some €7.5 billion. However, about 60 per cent of that money goes abroad.

And given that Virgin reckons that online spending by Irish consumers will nearly double between by 2021, retailers here need to encourage people to shop locally, says Karen.

Some 70 per cent of Kennys’ sales are now online, but this company is still a bookshop, she emphasises.

“There is more than 200 years of book-selling experience between the staff who are here now,” she says, contrasting her family’s business to Amazon where “the books are stocked beside the wellingtons”.

“Nor do they care about publishers or writers,” she adds.

Earlier this year, Kennys won the Marketing Institute’s All Ireland Small Business Marketing Award, in recognition of the company’s work to promote its online business in the two decades since becoming the first independent bookshop in Ireland and the second in the world to offer online shopping.

In addition to selling through their own website, where they offer free shipping and their book prices are often cheaper than the giants’, Kennys sell through the major sites including Amazon and the Book Depository – which is also Amazon-owned.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.