Two new independent bookshops are launching onto the scene this year: Imagined Things in Harrogate and the Woodbridge Emporium in Suffolk.
Imagined Things is coming to Harrogate mid-July 2017. The new shop on Parliament Street - formerly a toyshop, left vacant for over a year - will be brought back to life by former radiographer Georgia Duffy. She will be stocking "a little bit of everything", weighted towards science fiction and fantasy, a genre that Duffy also pens books in.
A radiographer for nearly six years at a local hospital in Harrogate, she said her new calling had struck her "like a lightning bolt". Duffy's desire to open a bookshop was to placate her creative side; she is already a writer with her debut fantasy novel, Futurespan, published just last year through a hybrid crowd-funded publisher called Britain's Next Bestseller.
Looking ahead, Duffy said she intends to employ local people as staff, and to hold author events, playing up to the city's literary reputation as home to the Harrogate Crime Festival.
"I don't know why I didn't think to open a bookshop sooner really," Duffy told The Bookseller. "I've known for a while [radiography] didn't fulfil the creative side of me. I love books and I've always written as well. I had my first book published last year... I think it's a perfect fit.
"It will be me [running the shop] to start with, but all going well I will be employing local people. We'll stock a bit of everything, but a bit more fantasy than you might usually find, as I'm a fantasy lover at heart - although I won't let it take over the shop! I'd also like to be an active part of the community and get children excited about reading. That is really important to me."
Duffy added: "I'm hopeful it will be really successful and I think Harrogate is the right sort of town for it."
Jules Button, meanwhile, opened the Woodbridge Emporium earlier this month in Woodbridge, Suffolk. The shop trades in both new and second-hand books, as well as signed copies and first editions, across a range encompassing fiction, non-fiction and children's books. On top of this it is also selling vinyl records, loose-leaf teas, quirky greeting cards and gifts from around the world that, according to Button, "embrace the wonderful diverse world we live in".
Button and local author Hugh Fraser (aka Captain Hastings) at the opening of the Woodbridge Emporium.
The store opened in the company of the town's mayor and Hugh Fraser, best known for his role as Captain Hastings in "Poirot", who was on hand to sign copies of his book for customers.
Button is a qualified herbalist and aromatherapist, having previously ran a health store, The Rainbow Apothecary. She told The Bookseller her new venture had been received "really, really well".
"The Friday we opened we stayed open until people went - and that wasn't until 9 o' clock at night. That was lovely. And so far it's all been very positive," Button said. "The mayor has been very supportive because we want to work with children and reading. And diversity [is another important element of our work]. We are multi-spiritual here and we want to have something for everybody."
She added: "I wanted to be able to empower people more and books are very important in people's lives. You smell a book, you touch a book, you can feel it, you can become it; you can't do that on e-readers and Kindles and I feel we have lost something because of that. The books are now coming back in and so I thought that's my way to get the message out to people, it's through books."
Joining Button in the venture is her daughter, Jessie Button, who will be managing the shop, and retail assistant Rhys Levans.
The new openings chime with the optimism previously expressed by Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray when he predicted at the end of last year there was a possibility there would be more bookshop openings than closures in 2017.
Statistics earlier this year showed numbers of independent bookshops in the UK have halved since 2005; according to the Booksellers Association’s annual membership figures, in 2017 there were 867 independent bookshops in the UK compared with 1,535 in 2005. The number of independent bookshops in the UK has fallen for the 11th year in a row, it showed, but the rate of closures has slowed.