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Indie bookshop numbers hit 10-year high in 2022 defying tough retail climate

Posted on in Business News

The number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland climbed to a 10-year high in 2022, as the book trade defied the odds in an otherwise tough year for high street retailers.

bookshop

The lifestyle changes brought about by the Covid pandemic lockdowns were a boon for the book trade, as Britons with more time on their hands read more and sought out bookshops when they reopened.

There are now 1,072 independent bookshops after the industry enjoyed a sixth consecutive year of growth, according to the Booksellers Association (BA). The resurgence followed a 20-year losing streak in which bookshop numbers sank to a nadir of 867 in 2016.

Meryl Halls, the BA’s managing director, said the independent bookstore revival “confirms that bookshops are crucially important – and valued – parts of our high street communities”.

Despite the trend of new openings, Halls said the challenges facing bookshops and the wider high street could not be ignored. “With the economic headwinds coming our way, recession, inflation, labour shortages and massive cost increases across the board, bookshops need support,” said Halls.

“Margins are extremely tight, and for bookshops to thrive on high streets they need governments to take action to protect small businesses from the cost-of-living crisis, as well as unequal tax burdens such as business rates.”

Between 1995 and 2016, the number of independent bookshop members in the BA dropped from 1,894 to 867 as the industry faced stiff competition from Amazon and financial pressures from business rate hikes. However, with the ongoing resurgence that figure reached 1,072 in 2022, a net increase of 45 on the tally of 1,027 for 2021.

Halls said that during the pandemic there had been a “frankly astonishing number of new entrants to bookselling”, but like other high street businesses these stores were vulnerable as the UK heads into recession.

Last year’s biggest selling authors included Richard Osman with his hugely successful The Thursday Murder Club series, and the “BookTok queen” Colleen Hoover, with titles including It Ends With Us.

“Bookshops bring social and cultural capital to every town, village, suburb or city centre they are part of, and punch way about their weight in terms of impact and engagement locally, and nationally,” she said. “We want the number of bookshops to keep rising.”

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