A little bookshop along an Auckland street has been crowned Bookstore of the Year at the London Book Fair.

Unity Books scooped the top prize at the International Excellence Awards for "their wonderful and 'dangerously tempting' store", a statement said.

The High Street store's "substantial growth", along with its commitment to develop career booksellers and actions to become carbon zero by 2025 impressed judges.

But owner Jo McColl wasn't there to bask in the glow of the win at the London ceremony, which was cancelled because of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic, she said in a statement.


"To be a part of something so unique as celebrating the recognition and success of an independent bookshop in this current climate of tech giants is completely overwhelming but I am delighted for the ongoing viability of bricks and mortar in the book trade and the cultivation of reading and literature."

The two staff members who flew to London to attend the ceremony called the disruptions, courtesy of Covid-19, "massive".

"While it is amazing to win this award it is odd to receive it under these conditions. It won't stop us from celebrating, but these are worrying times."

About 25,000 publishers, authors and agents planned to attend the fair, but winners were instead announced online and prizes were to be posted around the world.

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Unity Books' Susannah Andrew told the Herald the win was amazing news for the "sanctuary of ideas" in the busy CBD.

"This is such a fantastic recognition of what a good bookshop it is and what it serves and I think its success is due to the fact that it has looked at its community and has served its community.

"The shelves are full of the most diverse, different kinds of books that you won't see anywhere else."

Unity Books staff. From left - Briar Lawry, Manager Niki Ward, Melanie O'Loughlin and Daniel Devenney. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Unity Books staff. From left - Briar Lawry, Manager Niki Ward, Melanie O'Loughlin and Daniel Devenney. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Andrew said the 17-strong staff of the bookshop were all passionate about reading.

"The staff make it in any bookshop and they're all readers, they're all engaged and enthusiastic about books."

About 29,319 books are housed in the High St store, which opened its doors in February 1989.

In September 2018, another set of doors opened: that of Little Unity, an offshoot of the recently awarded bookstore.

Thousands of picture, chapter and young adult books line the store's shelves, ripe for the picking for eager young readers.

A few days before Little Unity opened, McColl told the Herald she'd long had her eye on expanding into the space, on the corner of High St and Vulcan Lane, because she needed the extra room.

"When people talk about bookshops going out of business, they're more often than not talking about great big chains which are often not well managed but, around the world, independent bookshops are doing very well.

"Every day, our shop is full of people; last Christmas, we doubled our earnings for children's books — the figures just went nuts — and I thought it [opening a children's bookshop] was a really obvious thing to do."