Bookshop hit by energy bill hike is saved after celebs back viral post

Bookshop facing closure wins support from authors Anthony Horowitz and Jill Mansell and is inundated with customers and international orders after its owner posted photo of empty store on Twitter saying she was unable to pay its bills

  • Sapphire Bates shared a snap of her empty store Book Bodega in Ramsgate, Kent
  • She said soaring energy bills and a quiet winter had left shop on brink of closure 
  • Her Twitter plea for help has since gone went viral, being seen 5.7 million times  

Celebrities have come to the aid of a struggling independent bookshop owner after she placed a desperate plea on social media to help her pay her bills. 

Sapphire Bates, who runs Book Bodega in Ramsgate, Kent, had been crippled financially by soaring energy bills after a ‘quiet’ winter. 

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, the 29-year-old retailer said she desperately needed customers to help her pay her £800 bill by Tuesday or face potential closure. 

Posting a picture of her empty store, Ms Bates tweeted: ‘Winter is killing us, it’s so quiet and we need to make £800 by Tuesday to pay our bills. This is my current view = no customers. Please shop with us and help us stay open!’

Her tweet went viral in a matter of hours and has been viewed more than 5.7 million times  – with big-named supporters including comedian Sue Perkins.

Tweeting to her army of 1.2 million follows, the 53-year-old celebrity said: ‘If you were thinking of buying a book, then why not buy from this beautiful place; either in person or online xx’

From empty to bustling: Sapphire Bates posted a picture of her empty shop (left) Book Bodega on Twitter on Saturday, saying she was going to struggle to pay her £800 energy bill. By Sunday, store in in Ramsgate, Kent, was packed with customers after going viral online (right)

Sapphire Bates (right) outside her bookshop full with customers after she posted on Twitter, which has since been viewed almost six million times 

Anthony Horowitz, who wrote the popular Alex Rider collection, has also lent his support, alongside crime writer Ian Rankin, author Jill Mansell and musician Tim Burgess. 

And by Sunday the store was packed with customers and taking online orders from across the world, with Ms Bates later tweeting: ‘Thank you #Booktwitter for all your love and support.’

Sapphire, who runs the business with her partner Nicholas Turner, says it has been ‘a little bit crazy’ since the post went viral.

‘The shop has been really busy today with locals but also people from places like Canterbury, Whitstable and places further afield than we would usually have in,’ she said.

‘People have been buying online too. We’ve had people ordering from Italy, the US, Germany, Sweden – all over the place.

‘Our online shop doesn’t facilitate international orders so I’ve arranged to send books out to some people myself via Royal Mail.

‘Other people have chosen to buy books via pay it forward and I will pass them on to charities across Ramsgate.’

Sapphire added: ‘Winter’s been tough – I know if we can make it through the next month or two then we will make it through our first year of trading successfully.

Comedian Sue Perkins was among the celebrities showing their support of the independent retailer by retweeting Sapphire’s plea for help on Twitter

Sapphire said she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the support she received after her plea on social media went viral. Pictured are shoppers in her store 

Ms Bates, who runs the business with her partner Nicholas Turner, said it had been very tough winter, with fewer customers coming through the door and soaring energy bills

Sapphire (pictured) added that since her tweet went viral, things had gone ‘a little bit crazy’, with authors now looking stage book launches at her shop in Ramsgate 

‘I always knew it would be hard to run a bookshop – especially in a seaside town – but boy it’s still been a shock to the system.’

Ms Bates added that some writers have also offered to hold book signing events or talks at her her shop to help boost her profile.

Speaking of the reception to her plea on Twitter, the 29-year-old said: ‘I feel slightly overwhelmed by the response my tweet received.

‘When I sent it I didn’t think anything would come of it, so to suddenly have thousands respond felt quite surreal.

‘The likes of Anthony Horowitz, Sue Perkins, Jill Mansell, Adam Kay, and Deborah Frances- White have all got in touch to show their support – the list goes on.

‘Some have retweeted my original tweet on their platforms, and others have offered to even stop by and use my shop as a venue for a book signing.

‘Nothing is set in stone yet, but just to feel the love people have show is really touching.’

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