Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Murder One: Death by Degrees

It's a while since I posted about my love of detective stories. We in London have been lucky to have a bookshop specializing in the genre, Murder One, run by Maxim Jakubowski. Besides running the shop Maxim edits collections of murder stories, eg. London Noir, and writes his own books. And each week he would send us a newsletter with the latest books on offer.

This week (Jan 13) he sent his final newsletter:
It is with much sadness that this newsletter, which will also be our final one in this form, will confirm the news many of you might have already heard: Murder One will be closing its doors at the end of January; however in all likelihood we will all be working from behind closed doors packing and dismantling the shop from the 24th January.

It is not a decision that has been taken lightly. We have been making small losses for the past few years, and had actually been trying to find a buyer to coincide with Maxim's likely retirement later this year. Sadly after extensive talks with a couple of parties, these negotiations have failed due to the current economic climate which has discouraged the optimism of possible investors. In addition, the Pound Sterling's fall of 30% against the value of the US Dollar over past weeks has made the cost our American imports so much higher, thus badly affecting our future profitability.

Since our inception, we have never had bank borrowings or an overdraft and it is a fact we are particularly proud of. With the current poor prospects for retail on Britain's streets, now would not prudently be the time to go down that road, we felt.

We've survived almost 21 years which is not a bad innings in a time when chains and the Internet benefit from outrageously more favourable terms from publishers than a single independent bookshop.

When the news broke, it was covered by all the major British newspapers and television and brought heartfelt expressions of dismay from all: customers, journalists, publishers, authors. I can only say THANK YOU most sincerely (and a particular nod to the wonderful people at Orion, who also sent over complimentary champagne for the staff...).

On the positive side, two of our senior staff Tanya and Trisha have made an offer to acquire the mail order side of the business and the website, which has been accepted subject to contract and legal requirements. I sincerely hope they can keep the Murder One name alive and that you will be willing to continue doing business with them.

They will be contacting all existing and prospective customers soon with their plans.

It's been a great adventure. Thank you.

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2 comments:

PeterD said...

Sadly, John, New York preceded London by just over two years:


"Many Suspects Seen in the Death of a Mystery Bookstore

By JULIE BOSMAN
Published: December 20, 2006 (The NY Times)

Case closed.

Murder Ink, the mystery bookstore on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is going out of business after 34 years, along with its younger sister store, Ivy’s Books and Curiosities. On Monday the owner, Jay Pearsall, posted a sign in the window announcing that Dec. 31 would be the final day.

“We’ve been having a hard time keeping up,” Mr. Pearsall said.

The list of suspects is long. The rent has been increasing by 5 percent a year and currently runs $18,000 a month, Mr. Pearsall said. A Barnes & Noble at 82nd Street and Broadway has been chipping away at business for years. Amazon and eBay killed off mail-order business and sales of rare books.

And at some point in the mid-1990s, Mr. Pearsall said, he realized something even more troubling.

“I used to do apartment buys,” he said. “Children of people in the neighborhood who had died would sell their parents’ books; lots of them immigrants, lots of them Jewish, educated, liberal, and they just had all these great books. I realized that our clientele was dying.”

For the last few years, he said, the store has depended on sales from nonbook items that yield larger profit margins, like greeting cards, journals and action figures of Carl Jung and Rosie the Riveter...."

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