The Volumes of Bookshops I have known…


The loss of a major big bookshop in town is a thing to be sad about.
Especially one that had the widest selection over the most floors, the most knowledgeable staff, kept trying new things, and was the only place to go for foreign newspapers and magazines.

Yes, the closure of the St Vincent Street John Smith & Sons was a great loss to Glasgow.

It closed very shortly after the behemoth that was Borders – backed at the time by an comparatively enormous US company with loads of cash – opened up one of its flagship superstores right round the corner in Buchanan Street. Now that Borders is closing too, it’s leaving a Glasgow book retail landscape very different than it found when it opened.Who else remembers Volumes in Queen Street, or Hatchards in Gordon Street (or more recently, Ottakers in Sauchiehall Street)?

I will miss Borders (with one proviso, below) – and think it’s criminal the way the staff have been treated, especially when you read some of the comment threads such as this one:…
showing how badly the place had been managed by a succession of owners after the US Borders sold up; and how poorly the administrators have been at telling the staff what’s happening.

I’ve seen a few suggestions that the Glasgow store in particular was profitable; and claims that means it should stay open. Sadly, we’ve been here before too – when John Smiths pulled out of retail (apart from their Uni shops), I was told the Byres Road branch (now better known as ‘Starbucks next to the Underground’) was always profitable.But of course, with the chain going, no individual shop could survive on its own. Similar thing here, sadly I suspect.

What I won’t miss about Borders is their annoying recent habit of (a) trying to encourage you to spend hours in the store browsing, and trying to make you feel comfortable, yet at the same time (b) making you have to go ask a member of staff for a token to let you into the toilet, or more recently, buy something to get a special code printed on the receipt (and now, irritatingly, Waterstones Sauchiehall Street has started doing this as well).
While I appreciate the claims that vandalism, etc makes this a necessity, this approach doesn’t stop it, and just serves to make innocent customers feel like naughty children having to ask permission. That’s the sort of thing that just encourages me not to hang around in store, or spend my money elsewhere.

As for John Smiths, I still miss the old Maps department in particular…

[Ironically, I found the old Volumes bookmark above just earlier today, down the back of a wardrobe I was helping demolish!]



About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Volumes of Bookshops I have known…

  1. Emma Mykytyn says:

    I heartily miss Smiths. I grew up wandering around the nooks and crannies with my head stuck in a book and not feeling pressurised into buying anything. I loved finding a new department hidden away each time i visited. Just made me want to buy books. Sadly, amazon etc dont have that same pull

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s