Number of Indie Bookshops Rises in the UK

The number of independent bookshops in membership of the Booksellers Association in the UK and Ireland has grown for the sixth consecutive year, marking a decade of growth following more than 20 years of decline, the Booksellers Association has announced.

The BA, which represents independent, chain and non-traditional booksellers across the UK and Ireland, released the figures as part of its annual membership survey, which revealed that the number of independent bookshops in BA membership at the end of 2022 grew to 1072 shops, up from 1027 in 2021, and the lowest point of 867 in 2016. This marks the highest number of independent bookshops in BA membership in 10 years.

Meryl Halls, MD of the BA, said: “We are clearly delighted at the continued increase in the number of indie bookshops on our high streets.  Taken with the expansion seen within the Waterstones estate last year, this news confirms that bookshops are crucially important – and valued – parts of our high street communities.  Bookshops bring social and cultural capital to every town, village, suburb or city centre they are part of, and punch way about their weight in terms of impact and engagement locally, and nationally.  We want the number of bookshops to keep rising.

“What is particularly pleasing in the indie numbers is to be able to welcome a new cohort of booksellers to the industry; those with fresh eyes, new perspectives, energy and a commitment to the cultural contribution of bookselling to our society and our economy.  This new energy is so important to the future viability and diversity of our sector.

“The numbers of bookshops has grown gradually and slowly since 2016; during the pandemic we saw a frankly astonishing number of new entrants to bookselling.  Drawn by the cultural relevance of books, reading and bookshops, inspired by the activism on display amongst current booksellers, seeing bookselling as a valid and rewarding career choice – these are all reasons why people open bookshops, and we want each and every one of the shops to succeed.

“However, with the economic headwinds coming our way, recession, inflation, labour shortages and massive cost increases across the board, we need – as an industry – to continue to support our new bookshops, whether indie or chain, along with those longer-established – bookselling is not easy, and margins are extremely tight and hard-won.   If we want bookshops to thrive on high streets, we have to equip them with strong support and resources, with viable commercial models, with pro-active advocacy and we have to interact with them with imagination and kindness.  We’re immensely proud at the BA of the increase in the number of bookshops, and of the impact made by our existing members.  It’s our job now to ensure that this number stabilises, and that the industry, and governments – and consumers – know what is at stake when we fight for the survival of bookshops in the UK and Ireland.”