Browsing charge a ‘daft idea’ say independent retailers in NI

Owner of No Alibis David Torrans with the 50p he received as a joke in response to another booksellers browsing charge
Owner of No Alibis David Torrans with the 50p he received as a joke in response to another booksellers browsing charge

The suggestion of charging customers to browse shops has been roundly been dismissed by Northern’s Ireland independent retail body.

A second hand bookshop in Hawes, North Yorkshire, made the headlines after the owner introduced a 50p charge for customers entering his shop.

NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts

NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts

The money was given back if a purchase was made and kept it the person left without buying anything.

Steve Bloom provoked a number of complaints for his scheme and then made matters worse when he called a customer a ‘pain in the a**e’ for objected to the 50p charge.

The suggestion of charging customers to browse did not go down well in Northern Ireland.

“It’s a daft idea and one which I wouldn’t recommend to any independent retailer to consider,” said Glyn Roberts, NI Independent Retail Trade Association Chief Executive.

“Independent Retailers will always go the extra mile to attract shoppers into their stores and charging customers for that is completely counterproductive,” he said.

Meanwhile, fellow independent book retailer, David Torrans, was in disbelief at the approach.

“This man needs to find a new trade,” said Mr Torrans whose bookstore, No Alibis on Belfast, celebrates 20 years in business this year.

He said: “As retailers, it’s what we do. You set out your stall, you know the risks, you can’t charge people for taking a walk around your shop.

“In the lead up to Christmas we had lots of folk coming in and spending quite a bit of time browsing the books. In some cases people took notes of titles and authors of books.

“You can be cynical and say they’re going to find them online or I like to think of it that they’re taking notes for a list of Christmas presents they want.”

When interviewed on BBC breakfast Mr Bloom argued that charging customers to browse was no different than a charge to use a credit or debit card or a fee to use a toilet.

Mr Torrans commented: “I suppose it might have been a plan to get publicity in which case it seems to have worked. He’s made the BBC news.”

On Friday morning the BBC reported there were queues outside Mr Bloom’s bookshop in the small village of Hawes.

In Belfast, Mr Torrans adopts a different approach, putting on music gigs and book readings for customers, free of charge where at all possible.

As the conversation took place between the News Letter reporter and Mr Torrans, a customer in the shop left 50p on the counter on his way out as a nod to the topic being discussed.

Mr Torrans laughed and pledged the money to Marie Curie Cancer Research.