The number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland has grown for the fourth consecutive year, the Booksellers Association has confirmed.
Released as part of the BA's annual membership survey, the number of independent bookshops holding membership at the end of 2020 rose to 967 shops, up from 890 shops in 2019, 883 in 2018 and 868 in 2017. This figure marks the highest number of independent bookshops in BA membership since 2013, as the period of growth was preceded by two decades of decline.
In 2020 there were 139 new BA members (of which 136 were indies) and 52 new openings (of which 50 were indies). However there were also 44 indie closures, resulting in a net gain of six independent bookshops.
New independent bookshops which opened in 2020 include Bear Bookshop in the West Midlands, Book and Kulture in London, Chapter One Loftus in North Yorkshire, Darling Reads in West Yorkshire, a Daunt Books branch in Oxfordshire, East Gate Bookshop, Devon, Little Toller Books in Dorset, Not Just Books and The Holt Bookshop in Norfolk, Parade’s End in Surrey and Hastings Bookshop in East Sussex. In Scotland, Ginger and Pickles Children’s Bookshop opened in Edinburgh, The Book Nook in Stewarton, Ayrshire, and Adventure into Books in Perthshire. ARTtic opened in in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, and The Secret Bookshelf in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Meryl Halls (pictured), m.d. at the BA, said: “It has been an incredibly difficult year for booksellers, and the high street as a whole, so it is fantastic to see the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland increase for a fourth consecutive year.
“Covid-19, national lockdowns and shifting tier systems have had a huge impact on bookshops across the country, with footfall significantly reduced, the supply chain affected, and competition from tech giants more unfair than ever. Thankfully, booksellers were able to adapt quickly to the new realities of 2020, pivoting their services online and finding new ways to reach their customers and continue operating."
Despite praising the pioneering spirit of independent booksellers, Halls warned of future hardships, adding: “2021 is likely to be another challenging year for booksellers, as the full impact of the pandemic on the high street becomes apparent. However, this year has proven the resilience, resourcefulness and dedication of booksellers, and we will do everything we can to support them as they look ahead and plan for a post-pandemic future.”