This article was originally published in an opinion piece on TheBookseller in November 2015.
“Christmas is coming.
We all know this, we’ve spent months finalising our plans for the festivities, picking our favourite gifts (books obviously!) and packaging them perfectly so that we get the kind of warm fuzzy feeling associated with sales at “the most wonderful time of the year” and that’s just the commercial side of Christmas.
But since Black Friday’s ever-growing popularity and presence across large retailers grows each year, this is apparently the week where consumers will kick-start or complete their Christmas shopping.
As The Bookseller reported earlier in the year Tim Walker, president of the Booksellers Association, issued a rallying cry to independent bookshops to fight back with the “antidote” to Black Friday – #CivilisedSaturday.
On Civilised Saturday bookshops around the country will be serving everything from mulled wine to champagne and serving up dignified discounts and recommendations to their patrons.
Now the question is, are we in 2015 or extras in a “Downton Abbey” Christmas special?
My initial reaction at reading this news was to cringe, eye-roll and choke back a laugh (a great look if you’re after one) – not because I don’t see the need for independents and smaller retailers to emphasise the virtues of hand-selling and make an event of it, but because of that awfully cultured name for it.
This industry has its problems, they are many and the struggle for smaller bookshops and other businesses to compete with large players (particularly the online ones able to price and promote aggressively) is very real.
But, for an industry increasingly notorious for its cosseted cultural snobbery, is Civilised Saturday a wise branding exercise?
The name implies that only uncivilised people partake in or appreciate the bargains associated with Black Friday. (Don’t tell the unenlightened shopping at John Lewis this Friday.)
We know we need more diverse books, we need more diversity in book awards and staffing. We also need more diverse book-buyers as books are competing with every other form of entertainment in the world.
For that reason, I dislike the air of smugness emanating from the Civilised Saturday campaign. It feels as though the book trade is determined to focus itself on isolating many consumers to favour its preferred, more refined audience.
This poorly named campaign risks alienating the masses and those slightly mythical creatures, the reluctant readers.
After all, I’m sure that even Dowager Countess Violet Crawley herself would agree that it’s rather common to tell everyone how civilised you are.
A civilised gentleman.
Nick Coveney is Head of Digital and Social Media at Kings Road Publishing.”