The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

The study, commissioned by the Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland, shows that over 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 centres.

The new report, Booksellers As Place-makers, is authored by the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University and analyses feedback from 205 bookshops based across the UK.

Professor Cathy Parker, co-chair of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “This is the first-time research of this nature has ever been undertaken. Whilst 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.”

Researchers conducted a survey and spoke in-depth with booksellers, before comparing booksellers’ activity to 25 established priorities for high street vitality and viability. All bookshops were observed to contribute to the range, quality, purpose and diversity of their location. However, many went even further, delivering a number of wider benefits to high streets.

92% of bookshops contributed to the local non-retail offer, 99% contributed to the attractiveness of their town centres, 98% contributed to ‘place-marketing’ of their towns, 96% contribute 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.

77% of all booksellers contributed to 20 or more of the 25 priorities for successful high streets, demonstrating the outsize impact bookselling has on UK retail and the role that bookshops play in their wider communities.

The Booksellers Association 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, Booksellers Association President, and owner of three bookshops in Monmouth, Ross on Wye and Leominster, said  “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 our lobbying and campaigning work for 2022, as we navigate 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.

Download the Booksellers As Placemakers report

The BA has also created a downloadable infographic and social media assets for members to use.