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Independent stores surge in popularity

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Figures released by the Booksellers Association (BA) show that the number of independent bookstores on our high streets has grown for the second year running.

In 1995, there were 1,894 independent bookshops across the UK and in 2016 the number reached a low of just 867 shops – but 2017 marked a turnaround, albeit a small one, increasing by just one shop.

In 2018 however, the number of independents rose by 15 to 883, much to the BA’s delight.

“It is extremely encouraging to see independent bookshops succeeding in 2018, demonstrating the creativity and entrepreneurship of booksellers in the face of difficult challenges,” said Meryl Halls, managing director of the BA.

“We are delighted for – and proud of – our incredibly hard-working booksellers. We do, though, also need to consider these figures in a wider context.”

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Independent bookshops seem to be bucking the trend with their small, but significant incline

While big stores across the UK suffer on our high streets, independent bookshops seem to be bucking the trend with their small, but significant incline.

In the summer of 2017, Peter Brook and his wife Sarah left behind corporate jobs to open BrOOK’s – a fully licensed bookshop in Pinner, Middlesex, but it’s a shop with a bit of a twist.

Mr Brook said: “It’s always a book shop first second and third in our mind but some of the customers use it as place to meet for coffee, some may use it as a place to have a glass of wine and meet friends in the evening and others use it more eclectically.

“So for us we’re learning how to use the space as much as our customers are learning how to use the space.

“There are people who will never read a physical book but they still come here. There are people who buy more books than they can ever read but they still come here. It’s interesting because one of our customers said recently when you buy a book you’re also buying the time to read it.”

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Peter Brook left behind a corporate job to open BrOOK’s

As UK retailers face their worst Christmas in 10 years, the BA said 73% of outlets reported their Christmas sales were up on the year before, and 64% reported more people through the doors than 2017.

Despite the convenience of electronic devices like Amazon’s Kindle that can hold a library, it seems they don’t offer the same pleasure of holding a book which is what customers like.

But for the trend to continue, the BA is urging the government to keep business rates low in order for more bookstores to open and for businesses to thrive.

It said in a statement: “Bookshops continue to experience unequal business rates, and struggle alongside wider retail with unfair competition from online retailers, as well as post-Brexit uncertainty.

“In light of this, we ask the government to take the steps needed to protect the future of bookshops and their high streets, considering the concerns of retailers and booksellers so they can both flourish.”

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