Independent bookstores in U.K., Ireland expanded in 2020

The Hastings Bookshop, exterior
The Hastings Bookshop in Sussex is one of the new independents to open in the U.K. in 2020 (Photo: Facebook)

As an addendum to yesterday’s post about reasons for optimism about the book business at the start of 2021, the U.K. trade publication The Bookseller reports that even with ongoing struggles on the twin fronts of COVID-19 and Brexit, the number of independent bookstores in the U.K. and Ireland increased in 2020. This is the fourth straight year that numbers of indies have gone up.

According to data from the Bookselling Association, fifty-two new bookstores opened in 2020, of which fifty were independents. The Bookseller notes that forty-four independents closed, for a net gain of six additional stores in the past year.

The trade magazine quotes Meryl Halls, the BA’s managing director:

COVID-19, national lockdowns and shifting tier systems have had a huge impact on bookshops across the country, with footfall significantly reduced, the supply chain affected, and competition from tech giants more unfair than ever. Thankfully, booksellers were able to adapt quickly to the new realities of 2020, pivoting their services online and finding new ways to reach their customers and continue operating.

It is worthwhile taking a moment to stop and focus on the positive outcomes from a year that was incredibly challenging on numerous fronts. As COVID-19 vaccines roll out around the globe and there is some glimmer of possibility that the new U.S. administration will provide at least a modicum of stability in North America and abroad, keeping in mind how well the industry did during a very difficult twelve-month period should offer some promise for the months and years ahead.

Independent bookstores in U.K., Ireland expanded in 2020
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