Battle of the Bookshops: Kim’s in Arundel & Chichester

15th Jun 2011


With two sister stores tucked away amongst cake shops and antique markets of neighbouring seaside towns Chichester and Arundel, whoever Kim is, they’ve done a mighty fine job in creating a lovely little destination for bookish browsers and bargain hunters as well as catering for those on the look out for more specialist and rare titles.

In between indulging in ice-cream, exploring castles and catching crabs, the Chichester store provided a very merry three and a half hours worth of browsing and I still could’ve stayed longer if I hadn’t feared for my bank balance and been convinced that I should venture back out into the sunshine.

The staff succeeded in striking the balance between available and friendly yet unobtrusive, allowing everyone in the store to enjoy uninterrupted reading of their many varied titles. The sign on the wall declaring ‘browsers welcome’ proved true to its word, with absolutely no pressure to buy and free access to even the most valuable of titles.

The Chichester store has both fiction and non fiction spread across two floors and several different rooms. Whilst there were several rare and first edition books on display, the shop lacks any pretension or stuffiness, with plenty of more recent and affordable books, magazines and annuals sitting alongside the higher-priced items on well-organised, browser-friendly shelves. I found the selections of craft and embroidery pattern books, local history titles, maps and nature guides particularly good.

Up the winding, rickety staircase, I was delighted to discover a very well-stocked children’s section, which provided lots of opportunities to reminisce and find some unusual versions of classic tales. It was hard to resist the temptation to re-invest in Enid Blyton collections and Twinkle annuals that I didn’t have the foresight to hold onto.

I finally emerged back into the sunshine, triumphant in my purchasing of seven second hand titles for a very reasonable £30. My finds included a Ladybird book about the Royal Wedding (Di and Charles, that is), a 1920s children’s picture book and a good condition Penguin classic copy of one of my favourite short story collections, The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield.

I also chose several pocket sized titles from a wide selection of The Observer Book Of… range. Finally settling on guides to Dogs, Cats, and Horses and Ponies, these covetable books published from the fifties to seventies are rich in kitsch appeal and have already proven good source materials for zine-making projects. With a hundred titles available to collect, I fear I may now be scouring charity shops and car boot sales for more of this series.

Equally, I couldn’t resist picking up an old Elvis fanzine for a bargain fifty pence which I’ve already rather sacrilegiously cut up and recycled to create something new.

If you’re ever around those parts of the country, I heartily recommend setting aside an afternoon or two to explore these shops. Perfect for anyone who likes their bookshops a bit musty and their books pre-loved with their own stories to tell.

I didn’t dare venture inside to the Arundel store when I went past it later that week, knowing I didn’t have room in my suitcase for any more finds, so let me know if you’ve been there, and if so what you thought and bought!

Nikki Shaill