UK’s independent bookshops survive Christmas but fear for the future | Books

Independent bookshops largely saw “average” sales over the 2022 festive period, according to a new survey.

A majority of bookshops – 39% – that took part in trade magazine the Bookseller’s annual survey said they had average sales compared with the same period of 2021, while 29% of bookshops said the period was “very good”.

Bestselling titles for bookshops included Katherine Rundell’s The Golden Mole, Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait and Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry.

Other books that sold well included Richard Osman’s crime novels, and books by Adam Kay, Bob Mortimer and Michelle Obama, whose The Light We Carry is the follow-up to her bestselling memoir Becoming.

The survey was completed by 31 bookshops and of these, five described Christmas trading as “excellent” and five said it was “disappointing”.

Two booksellers said they had a decrease in online sales, which they put “firmly at the door of the mail strikes”. More than 100,000 postal workers went on strike for six days in December in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The survey also asked booksellers about the year of trading to come, with many concerned about the cost of living crisis and how it might impact consumer spending and business viability.

Caitlin Lowe, assistant manager of the St Helens Book Stop in Merseyside, told the Bookseller that as well as being concerned about customers spending money on books, there were also concerns “about the cost of running our shop owing to increasing energy prices”.

Alice Fischer, manager at the Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh, told the Bookseller that “we are worried about the economy and the current cost of living crisis, and how they will impact customers’ buying habits”.

Overall, 2022 was a good year for independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland, who saw their number climb to a 10-year high.

According to the Booksellers Association (BA), there are now 1,072 independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland, up 45 on the tally of 1,027 for 2021.

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

But, said Halls, there were still concerns for independent bookshops in the coming year. “With the economic headwinds coming our way, recession, inflation, labor 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.”

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