Number of independent bookshops in UK and Ireland reaches 10-year high

The number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland has reached a 10-year high following an “astonishing” number of new entrants to bookselling during the pandemic.

The Booksellers Association (BA), which represents both chain and independent bookshops, said its annual membership survey indicated the number of independent bookshops had grown for the sixth consecutive year.

New independent bookshops which opened in 2022 included ChocoLit in Clapham, Hold Fast in Leeds and Paperxclips in Belfast, as BA membership grew from 1,027 shops in 2021 to 1,072 at the end of 2022.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

It marks the highest number of independent bookshops in BA membership in a decade, it said.

Meryl Halls, managing director at the Booksellers Association, 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 above their weight in terms of impact and engagement locally, and nationally.

“The number of bookshops has grown gradually and slowly since 2016, during the pandemic we saw a frankly astonishing number of new entrants to bookselling.

Nottingham City Centre Stock
Waterstones (Mike Egerton/PA)

“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, Ms Halls urged people to continue supporting bookshops as the economy in the UK is forecast to plunge into recession following the extreme volatility of 2022.

She added: “With the economic headwinds coming our way, recession, inflation, labour shortages and massive cost increases across the board, bookshops need support.

“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.”

BA is the membership organisation for booksellers in the UK and Ireland and represents more than 95% of booksellers, it said.