French’s to close London shop and announce 50% off sale

Howard Loxton

Samuel French, play publishers, play agents and booksellers specialising in theatre books, has been around since 1830, at various addresses in London.

It moved to Fitzroy Street in 1983 but now that shop is closing. This is despite a 15% increase in shop sales in the last couple of years, led by its diversification of the range of theatre merchandise it stocked and the addition of books about London and some fiction to its core theatre merchandise.

The reason for the closure? The landlord wants a 200% rent hike. "Increased business rates were part of the problem but we wouldn’t have had to close if it hadn’t have been for this rent increase," said Managing Director Douglas Schatz when he announced the bookshop’s closure “with a heavy heart.”

“We’re extremely sad to see it go and send a huge thank you to all the staff and customers from all over the world who’ve supported the shop through the years. With the property costs the way they are, it is just not viable to have success as a specialist bookshop now unfortunately."

The company will be moving to an office not far away in Euston from which it will continue to develop its online business, which already accounts for four out of five sales, and where there will be an event space that can accommodate 50 people.

As publishers, French’s has 3,000 plays in print and is the UK’s largest licensee of plays and Schatz expressed excitement about its expansion of a suite of online resources for actors, its innovation in digital play reading, the forthcoming re-launch of its Acting Edition play texts and an expanding catalogue of new authors as well as the online growth of the shop.

After 187 years, London loses a shop which will be sadly missed by actors and other theatre folk, drama students and theatregoers, but for the moment they can take advantage from today of a sale reducing all the current stock by 50% and the company also plans to donate remaining books to UK drama schools and libraries.