143-year old Blackwell’s Bookshop up for sale

Blackwells The Norrington Room

Blackwell’s Bookshop, which opened its first store in Oxford in 1879, is up for sale.

The business, which now has 18 stores, is working with advisers at Begbies Traynor, on a potential sale.

According to its latest accounts, the Group turned over more than £88 million in the year to January 2021, up from £58 million the previous year. This was “quite an achievement” as it was done when the retail shops were closed for the lockdown, and was the fourth continuous year of growth.  Gross profit for the period was £18M

However, the Group made a pre-tax loss of £1.3M in the 18 months to 2 January 2021.

The first bookshop opened by a member of the Blackwell family was in Oxford but was actually in 1846, but it takes the year 1879 as its founding since it was on January 1st of that year that its bookshop on Broad Street, Oxford first opened its doors, and has been trading  continuously from there ever since.

The Oxford bookshop itself has grown; sideways, upwards and, most notably, underground.

The Norrington Room was opened over fifty years ago and for many years was proudly listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the single largest room in the world selling books.

In 1929 Blackwell’s bought George’s in Bristol, its first Bookshop outside Oxford.

The shop has garnered mentions in numerous books, employed booksellers who have gone on to be award-winning authors, featured in a variety of films, and been a haven for the bookish from all parts of the globe.

The business now reportedly has 350 employees and 18 stores, many sited on university campuses. It also  As well as its bookshops, Blackwell’s also runs a professional arm serving both private and public sector organisations such as the NHS and governmental departments. During the pandemic the company offered a “books by bike” service from its shop in Oxford and delivered care packages to isolated students in Manchester.

The company is working with advisers at Begbies Traynor on the potential sale of the business.

Julian Blackwell, Blackwell’s president and the great-grandson of the founder, was reported to have said: “I would have loved to have handed over the company to its staff, but I also accept that in order to grow and remain competitive in the future, it is time for new ownership, ideas and investment.”