A BOOKSHOP given a “kick up the backside” by lockdown has missed out on taking a UK prize after being named the Welsh independent bookshop of the year.

Griffin Books in Penarth was also in the running to be named the UK’s best independent bookshop at the British Book Awards, a virtual ceremony held online, on Thursday evening.

But owner Mel Griffin, whose shop was also nominated for best children’s bookstore, is pleased at the recognition from the industry and customers.

“It’s important in the industry, and it doesn’t do any harm for people to be aware, and we’ve certainly had a lot of congratulations from customers.”

The Booksellers Association says there are more independent book stores in the UK than there have been since 2013 and the number increased from 890 in 2019 to 967 in 2020, though the pandemic year also saw 44 close.

However many such shops have reported increased custom since the first UK wide lockdown in March 2020, including Griffin Books.

It even took on another member of staff, in October last year, due to the increased workload from its busy online sales and events it runs with authors.

When the closure of all non-essential retail was ordered in spring last year, and everyone was told to stay at home, Ms Griffin thought she would have to furlough her then four part-time staff members.

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“The whole pandemic year gave us the opportunity, and the kick up the backside, to go online properly. It was something we’d planned to do before lockdown kicked in.

“We were very quickly able to get up and running and by July launched our online shop.”

The bookseller hadn’t expected lockdown to last so long, with non-essential retail in Wales closed from March 23 to June 22, before further lockdowns in the winter, but the shop remained trading throughout.

“We didn’t close and were taking orders, posting books out, and made it very clear we were still open but in a different way.

“I was the only one working in the shop, receiving orders and packing, and I didn’t have to furlough any staff in the end. They were set up working from home, processing orders and payments, and giving recommendations, as they normally do, but over email.”

Griffin bought the established Windsor Bookshop in September 2014, which was run by a couple who retired and employed one part-timer who worked just one day a week. Since establishing Griffin Books since then the former IT consultant,has also run events with authors at venues ranging from local church halls to Penarth Pier.

With lockdown having also shut down public gatherings The shop found a new home for its events online while it streamed its weekly children’s events, normally held in store, on Instagram and Facebook live.

It has held online events with authors as diverse as Jeffrey Archer, the BBC’s North American editor Jon Sopel and former Liverpool footballer Jamie Carragher – but the most popular events were one with chat show host Graham Norton, last week, and Gavin and Stacey star Ruth Jones.

“They give people quite a personal experience as the questions are live on screen, it’s like being in the room with your favourite author, and they are also good for book sales which is of importance from a business point of view.

“We started with some meet the author events, with some local authors we knew, they went well so we pitched to some others and then publishers came to us.

“It has also helped us reach a much wider audience so we’re no longer just a local bookshop but we can reach the UK and the world, we’ve had people from America and Australia for our events.”