New chapter as owner gives bookshop reprieve

Norman Latimer of Latimers Book Shop, Kelso.
Norman Latimer of Latimers Book Shop, Kelso.

A KELSO bookseller has reversed his decision to close his shop, after pledges of support from local customers.

It was back in July that TheSouthern reported a lack of trade was forcing Norman and Jane Latimer to close down their independent bookshop, just off the town’s square, after almost four years.

In recent months, the situation at Latimer Books had slid from not making enough money to losing money, and the Latimers had decided enough was enough.

Despite the impending closure, however, the couple was able to take some solace from the fact that their shop had promoted and supported local authors, it had contributed to the local community and, importantly to the Latimers, no-one other than Mr Latimer would lose their job.

But an article contributed to the retail property section of the Estates Gazette by the Latimers’ daughter, Philippa, recently revealed that the six weeks since the closure news had been made public had been an eye-opener.

Of her father’s dream of running a bookshop, she had written: “He’d always dreamt of running a quaint independent bookshop. He’s not the only person to have had that dream. And, in recent years, he’s certainly not the only person to watch that dream falter.”

However, after the story of the planned closure appeared in TheSouthern, something strange happened. The following six weeks saw more books sold than in the entire preceding six months.

Local customers came and bought books by the bundle, pledging that they would be more frequent customers if only the shop would remain open.

As the days passed, increasing numbers of customers told Mr Latimer the shop was an asset to the community which they did not want to lose, and some even made suggestions on how the business could be turned around and saved.

It all got Mr Latimer thinking and the result is that Latimer Books is remaining open, albeit in a different trading format.

The plan now is to sell quality books but at a discount.

The front of the shop will see a large selection of paperbacks selling at a 50 per cent discount all year round. There will be a selection of hardbacks nearer the back, also at a discount, and Mr Latimer also has plans to start stocking CDs and DVDs.

“Every single item in the shop will be sold at some kind of discount,” he told TheSouthern this week. “The reason is that we’ve had a change of heart about closing.

“It started with our children telling me I’d be bored sitting at home all day and then we had more customers coming in, buying books and urging us to stay open.

“So we looked at everything we were doing and decided there was a market for a shop selling quality books at discounted prices.

“We’ll still stock hardbacks, but they’ll be sold at a discount of some sort as well and we’re looking into stocking CDs and DVDs, because it’s very hard to get those in Kelso now.”

One thing Mr Latimer is keen to retain from his shop’s previous incarnation is the “old-world bookshop” feel to the place.

“I certainly hope we can retain that kind of atmosphere,” he added.

The shop will close for two days next week to allow for the stock to be restructured, and reopen on Monday, September 5.