Many businesses faced a challenging year in 2022 amidst consumers tightening their purse strings. One retail sector, however, emerged from the year triumphant and at a 10-year high. Independent bookshops have been growing in number since 2016, when they hit a record low of 867 across the UK. As of the start of 2023, the number of independent bookshops has recovered to a healthy 1,072 across the UK and Ireland. But why did independent bookshops thrive in a year that saw 47 independent shops close each day?
A novel resurgence thanks to lockdowns and TikTok
COVID and the subsequent lockdown gave people more downtime. Time spent at home lead to hobbies once abandoned due to lack of time being picked back up. For some, it was baking sourdough; for others, it was daily home workouts. Many of us took to dusting off books from our bookshelf that we needed more time to read. When our home libraries were depleted, we took to the internet. 202 million books were sold in 2020, worth a staggering £1.76 billion. Books temporarily relieved us from the mundane routines we created in lockdowns. They allowed us to escape into an environment different to what reality had become. Our reality seemed less likely than the books we emersed ourselves in.
Even when society reopened, our thirst for literature remained. Out from the depths of the social platform TikTok came BookTok. Technologies answer to book clubs, a version that had a greater scope and opened up further discussions on the texts. #BookTok has over 60 billion views on TikTok, with authors like Colleen Hoover reaping the rewards of having books trending within the sub-community. BookTok has cemented its place within the literary community, and authors would be wise to use this to their advantage. Bookscan has reported that 2.9 million copies of books that included BookTok or TikTok in their description were sold in the first five months of 2022 – showing the real-life effects social media has on businesses. Instagram has followed suit with its own virtual book club. The #bookstagram has had over 70 million shares across the platform.
What do bookshops provide that other businesses do not?
Bookshops have been the meeting point for many future couples in romcoms. That is because they provide an environment for like-minded people to meet and discuss ideas. They provide a vital social environment known as a ‘third place’. Book shops are not home, nor are they work or a school. They are not places people frequent every day, but they provide a critical space in society. They are relaxing and encourage discussion and recommendations.
Additionally, they allow people who otherwise may not have met to build relationships. Bookshops are warm and cheerful in most cases, unlike the coldness of business tycoon Amazon which enables you to browse and make your own decision. Bookshops offer the promise of unique recommendations from the staff. It is a sub-community within society where the only requirement is wanting to read. Also, it goes without question that nothing quite beats the physicality of books, from the crisp pages to the new book smell. It is an aspect of reading where ebooks cannot compete.
Furthermore, like other local businesses, they give back to their communities. Often, bookshops host book clubs, writing workshops, and even weddings. Buying from local and independent bookshops keeps money circulating within your local economy and, in turn, sustains your community. They are a business mode that contributes to society economically, socially, and culturally. Consequently, it is vital that they can survive the upcoming year of financial uncertainty.
In 2023 there must remain the need to read
For many business owners, this year is already causing anguish with the promised recession looming. We mustn’t let our independent bookshops decline towards extinction. Meryl Halls, the managing director of the Booksellers Association, speaks on the upcoming threat of closure that many bookshops may face. Halls says, ‘with the economic headwinds coming our way, recession, inflation, labour shortages and massive cost increases across the board, bookshops need support’. Use literature to save money during the recently announced energy-saving times as the sun sets later. Pick up a book when you get home instead of turning on the tv, allowing you to read and earn credit with your energy supplier. Give a book from an independent bookshop as a gift this year. Books are the perfect versatile gift idea. Not only this, but they have become a staple in home décor. Coffee table books have gained popularity in recent years, and displaying books around your house adds a second life to your books.
As mindful shopping is increasingly important to consumers and shopping locally maintains crucial for many individuals, save the delivery costs and pop down to your local bookshop for your new book fix. For business owners, it is vital to reduce business costs this year. Please make sure you are not overpaying for the card machine for your business.