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Indie bookshops are bucking high street trends

High streets are treacherous but independent bookshops seem to have found the key to success: community

Telling Tales bookshop on a boat

Last year was the worst year for UK retail on record – yet the number of independent bookshops has grown for the third year in a row.

There were 890 by the end of 2019, up on 883 the previous year. Shop owners and book enthusiasts alike are celebrating the steady growth which follows more than twenty years of decline driven by a surge in online retail and soaring high street rent prices.

Booksellers Association (BA) managing director Meryl Halls said it is now accepted that an ethical shopping trend means bookshops have “survived the Amazon firestorm”.

She added: “This is 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 papers.”

BA released the data showing that new members like All Good Bookshop in London’s Wood Green and the Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh were slowly bringing independent bookshop numbers back up after a high of 1,535 in 2005.

Halls continued: “Shop local movements are definitely resurgent too. Community in a time of strife is of outsize importance, and with all the talk of healing and collaboration, that makes it more likely that people will cleave together, and want to reproduce something they may have thought they’d lost.

“Everyone shops online but nobody wants to live somewhere where there are no shops. They understand that high streets are more than just shops and transactions. People live busy lives and can see the benefit of local services and resources.”

Independent bookshops continue to pop-up all over the country – and not just on the high street.

Daisy Hollings and husband Jon Gedny’s enterprise Telling Tales is an unusual example. They ditched bricks and mortar to try their hand at selling books on a boat last year, bringing illustrated children’s books to London’s canals, providing reading nooks for kids and coffee mornings for local communities.

Daisy told The Big Issue: “People are really intrigued to come and see us and experience something different, people are really excited about even just going on a boat. Bookshops are a massive part of the community.”

Image: Telling Tales

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