The pandemic has sparked vocations, in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Booksellers Association, which brings together British booksellers, reports a rising number of members, having reached its highest level for the past ten years. A similar phenomenon is observed in the United States and France.
Across the Channel, booksellers are popular. According to BA figures, which relate to the United Kingdom and Ireland, the number of bookstores in 2022 reached an unprecedented level for the last ten years. At the end of last year, the association had 1,072 members, compared to 1,027 at the end of 2021.
Among the explanations put forward by the professional organization, the health crisis, which would have aroused vocations or pushed a certain number of dreamers to concretize their project.
“Along with the expansion of the Waterstones chain, this news confirms the fact that bookstores are crucial and indispensable to our city centers”, underlines Meryl Halls, director of the association.
If the period of the health crisis seems to have weighed in the creations or takeovers of signs, the increase in the number of bookstores has been continuous for six consecutive years, she specifies to the Independent.
As for the case of Waterstones, one of the largest chains in the United Kingdom, its acquisition of Blackwell’s stores marks a certain concentration of the sector, but also the preservation of around twenty points of sale…
The Booksellers Association, which claims to bring together 95% of professional booksellers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns all the same that the year 2023 promises to be delicate, economically, due to high inflation.
Dream and dream
The vocations of booksellers are not likely to dry up, however: according to a survey commissioned by American Express Shop Small on local shops, four out of ten Britons dream of opening their own shop. And the projects focus above all on the bookstore, in the first place of the shops that our island neighbors would dream of opening. And this, in front of cafes, clothing stores and other restaurants…
In the minds of the French, they enjoy an equally honorable place. In July 2022, the CSA institute revealed its 7th barometer of the city center and shops, in which 60% of respondents said they were attentive to the presence of a bookstore in the city center. This type of business was then in 4th place, behind the bakery, the pharmacy and the butcher/charcuterie.
A city center equipped in this way would simply be more attractive. A study on the contributions of these very special businesses – commissioned by the Booksellers Association, therefore quite oriented at the origin – underlined that they often invested in the creation and animation of a cultural and social network. The welcome reserved for customers, the care given to the particular atmosphere of the place or even to the visual appearance of the window would be other assets of bookstores in the commercial offer of a city.
The bookstore craze is not limited to Albion. The American Booksellers Association, equivalent to the Booksellers Association in the United States, thus reported 2,023 member stores in mid-2022, a figure well above the 1,689 at the beginning of July 2020.
“ It’s quite amazing when you think about the desperate situation for these stores in 2020”, underlined the general manager, Allison Hill.
In France too, the recent period has marked a change in the trend in terms of the number of bookstores. The years 2015-2018 remained on the side of a general decline in points of sale, in France, but the 2019-2021 season on the contrary revealed a strong dynamism in terms of takeovers and, above all, establishment creations.
A study by the consulting company Axiales, mid-2022, thus noted 70 bookstore creations in 2021, for 17 takeovers of places. For 28.7% of the booksellers questioned, the Covid had indeed motivated the desire to “change your life”, but the health crisis was still perceived as a substantial pitfall by a large number of neo-booksellers.
The year 2023 will remain, for these young booksellers, a trial by fire, in a context of high inflation.