UK Booksellers Association Cites Third Year of Gains in Stores

In News by Porter Anderson

The trade association for the UK’s booksellers says that following 20 years of decline, its membership counts 890 member-stores.

Pages Cheshire Street in London is one of the independent bookstores listed by the UK’s Booksellers Association as having opened in 2019. Image: Pages Cheshire Street

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Halls: ‘Retailers Still Face Issues’
In an announcement today (January 10) from their offices in London’s Bell Yard, the Booksellers Association reports a third year of gains in the number of sales outlets it counts among independent bookstores in Ireland and the UK.

The association’s managing director, Meryl Halls, says, in a prepared statement, “It’s very heartening to see the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland grow for a third year. This is a testament to the creativity, passion, and hard work of our booksellers, who continue to excel in the face of challenging circumstances, particularly those wider high street challenges which so often see bookshops outperforming their high street peers.”

The 2019 performance, Halls says, “is enhanced by the news of Waterstones store openings during 2019 and bolsters the bookselling community across the board.”

“Across the UK and Ireland, retailers still face issues around online competition and unequal business rates, all against a backdrop of uncertainty around Brexit and the economy.”Meryl Halls, Booksellers Association

As her comment about Waterstones indicate, the association’s membership isn’t limited to independents. It includes chain and “nontraditional” stores—the latter term normally referring to food stores and other outlets not led by a book-related inventory.

In the association’s annual membership survey, it was found that the number of independent member-stores by the end of 2019 had grown to 890 stores, up from 283 in 2018 and 868 in 2017.

The association also says that its Christmas trading survey of independent booksellers shows that two-thirds of its independent stores reported increased sales over Christmas 2018, despite a perception that retail-wide physical-store traffic was down.

Meryl Halls

Despite the good news, Halls cautions against any assumptions that the ground has shifted, possibly concerned that the perception of good news will cause people to assume that book retail is out of the woods. She’s urging local support of high street retail across the board, not just in books.

“We do need to frame this positive growth in a wider context,” she says in her communication to the news media. “Across the UK and Ireland, retailers still face issues around online competition and unequal business rates, all against a backdrop of uncertainty around Brexit and the economy.

“No high street can survive solely on bookshops. All retailers need to be supported and championed in order for the retail landscape to thrive.

”While the increased bookshop numbers are certainly a cause for celebration,” she says, “we remain dedicated to campaigning for the new government to help protect the future of retail more widely. It’s key that the difficulties facing all retailers are properly addressed and the high street supported, so that both [other] retailers and booksellers can flourish.”

Bookstores Opened in 2019

Goldstones Books in Camarthenshire, Wales, is one of the new bookstores listed by the Booksellers Association. Image: Goldstone Books

In its information today, the Booksellers Association includes a list of independent stores it has determined opened in the UK and Irish markets in 2019:

  • All Good Bookshop, London
  • Banner Books, County Clare
  • Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Norwich
  • Books On The Hill, St Albans
  • Dogberry and Finch Books, Devon
  • Goldstone Books, Carmarthenshire
  • Halfway Up The Stairs, County Wicklow
  • Maldon Books, Essex
  • Our Bookshop, Hertfordshire
  • Pages Cheshire Street, London
  • Pigeon Books, Hampshire
  • Read., West Yorkshire
  • Round Table Books, London
  • The Little Book Emporium, East Yorkshire
  • The Portobello Bookshop, Edinburgh
  • Topping and Company Booksellers of Edinburgh, Edinburgh

Also from the Booksellers Association, entries for the Children’s Book of the Month for April to June have opened.

“Chosen by a panel of independent booksellers from a range of new children’s titles submitted by publishers,” the association’s messaging says, “the Children’s Book of the Month gives one new children’s book the opportunity of focused promotion in independent bookshops across the country each month.”

The currently showcased book of the month is The Bear Who Did by Louisa Greg with Laura Hughes’ illustration work (Egmont). More on the Children’s Book of the Month program is here.

Inside Edinburgh’s Portobello Bookshop, another retail site on the Booksellers Association’s list. Image: Portobello Bookshop

More from Publishing Perspectives on bookselling is here. And more from us on the UK market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.