Bookshops are key contributors to successful high streets and have a "halo effect" on their communities, according to a new study, Booksellers as Place-makers, commissioned by the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland. The report shows that more than 90% of booksellers "work actively to support local priorities, such as place marketing, walkability, provision of recreational and cultural spaces, and maintaining attractive town and city centers."
The Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University analyzed feedback from 205 bookshops in the U.K. Researchers conducted a survey and spoke in-depth with booksellers, before comparing their activity to 25 established priorities for high street vitality and viability. All bookshops contributed to the range, quality, purpose and diversity of their location, the study said. However, many went further, delivering a number of wider benefits to high streets.
"This is the first-time research of this nature has ever been undertaken," said IPM co-chair Cathy Parker. "While shops and services make up the high street until now nobody has asked exactly how their businesses contribute to the health of the high street. It's been taken for granted that they do--but this research shows just how much bookstores do to make high streets vital and viable."
Among the findings: 92% of bookshops contributed to the local non-retail offer; 99% to the attractiveness of their town centers; 98% to "place-marketing" of their towns; 96% to the "liveability" of their towns; 77% were proactively involved in networks and partnerships with local councils; and 70% helped to remove barriers to entry for new businesses in the area.
In addition, 77% of all booksellers contributed to 20 or more of the 25 priorities for successful high streets, "demonstrating the outsize impact bookselling has on U.K. retail and the role that bookshops play in their wider communities," IPM noted.
BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "We are delighted to be able to share this unique and innovative report. We've always known that booksellers punch above their weight, but working with the Institute of Place Management has allowed us to quantify the scope and impact of the trade's activity.
"Covid has created and accelerated a changed and changing landscape for retail, for town and city centres, and high streets and main streets more generally. We know now how the leadership shown by bookshops can be a crucial difference in the life of that community, and we want to applaud our members for the work they do--and encourage and inspire more of our members to do the same."
Andy Rossiter, BA president and owner of Rossiter Books in Monmouth, Ross on Wye and Leominster, added: "Living and working as a bookseller through this pandemic has been one of the most intense experiences of all our working lives, and I am incredibly proud to reconfirm what I already knew, which is that my fellow booksellers are net contributors to the health of our high streets, as well as to our economic, cultural and social lives. We want booksellers to take confidence and pride in this report, and to shout from the rooftops in their own places how brilliant they are."
Commenting in the report's conclusion, IPM researchers said the study "provided the foundation to create a working assessment of the characteristics generally demonstrated by booksellers. They are passionate & energetic; resourceful & adaptable; full of ideas and willing to try them; forward and outward looking; and natural exemplars of best-practice."
The report was commissioned by the BA as a key part of its lobbying and campaigning work for 2022, as booksellers deal with a post-pandemic high street and retail landscape. A successor and partner piece to the BA's 2017 Economic Impact Report from CEBR, Booksellers as Place-makers "seeks to move the conversation along, illustrating with robust data what has always been known about booksellers, which is the 'halo effect' they have on their communities."
The Australian Booksellers Association has commissioned a report into sustainability in the bookselling industry. In the latest ABA e-newsletter, CEO Robbie Egan noted that the report "will give an overview of current and planned sustainability efforts in Australian bookselling, and it will feature practical advice for booksellers big and small on making greener choices. The report will place bookselling within the broader book industry context and include considerations of industry-wide issues and initiatives."
The report is being produced by Angela Meyer, who has worked in bookselling and publishing and as an author. As a freelancer, she has worked on reports for various organizations and, after completing Climate Reality training in 2021, she decided to draw together her knowledge and interests to help work on climate issues in the book industry. Meyer will be speaking about this at the ABA National Conference on June 12 in Sydney.
Canadian Olympic moment, sidewalk chalkboard division. Analog Books, Lethbridge, Alb., shared a photo of its sidewalk chalkboard message on Instagram: "Training for the moment that reading becomes an Olympic event." --Robert Gray