Shropshire booksellers celebrate another year of growth as sales defy lockdown restrictions

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen many people dip into old hobbies and take up new ones such as baking, cooking, arts and crafts and gardening.

Rhiannon Murray of Booka Bookshop in Oswestry
Rhiannon Murray of Booka Bookshop in Oswestry

And while some interests may have come and gone, one particular hobby it seems is hear to stay, as new data has revealed that book sales hit their highest in a decade last year.

According to new data from the Books & Consumers survey by BookScan, both fiction and non-fiction titles hit a 10-year value high last year, with Children's books hitting a new lifetime record.

It comes after the 'remarkable' 2020 sales patterns – with the impact of lockdown causing people to spend more time indoors – which saw questions arise on whether this would be maintained in 2021.

According to The Read Agency, nearly one in three adults were reading more during lockdown, with almost half of young people reading more than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The data from BookScan has shown that an estimate of 212.6 million print books were bought last year, a five per cent increase on the previous year, with a total of £1.82 billion spent on those books.

People often seek comfort in literature as a source of escapism and relief from the uncertainties of every day life and perhaps even more so during times of crisis.

Now, booksellers across the county have shared their experiences of another successful year for the paperback, revealing how Shropshire is at the heart of this success.

Castle Bookshop, Ludlow

Stanton Stephens, owner of Castle Bookshop, Ludlow, said: "It's the best year it's been for a long time."

Mr Stephens said that there had been an increase in sales across the board, noting that this may be down to the number of "good fiction titles, good history titles and good biography titles" that have been released.

Popular authors have included the works of Hilary Mantel, Bernadine Evaristo, Margaret Atwood, Lucinda Riley, Robert Harris and Richard Osman, whose title Thursday Murder Club has been revealed as the most popular in the Midlands region.

Stanton Stephens is the proprietor of Castle Bookshop in Ludlow

Mr Stephens took over the bookshop located in 5 Castle St, in 1997 – and has been working at the shop since 1989 – it stocks a wide range of recently published titles as well as a collection of local maps and guides.

Mr Stephens said that the past few years had seen an increase in people purchasing guide books and maps, theorizing that this may be down to more people exploring national tourist spots rather than going abroad.

Shropshire is in a convenient place in that tourists often pass through the county to get to Wales – a popular destination for tourists – with government statistics showing that 48 per cent of operators had more customers last year compared to a pre-Covid Summer.

Mr Stephens said that he is still seeing "a lot of tourists come through" and that "we can only keep our fingers crossed and hope that it continues," this year.

The Ironbridge Bookshop, Telford

Meg Prince, who owns the second-hand bookshop, said that the wonderful increase in sales has had a positive effect on the store and they had a "brilliant year" last year despite being closed for percentage of it.

She said that the last two years have been "pleasantly busy" and that people have become aware of the importance of escapism and have been in need of something else, which reading is "brilliant" for.

"Psychological thrillers have been fairly popular over the last few years and still are, especially with women," Meg said, alongside a heartfelt story such as Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove.

Booka Bookshop, Oswestry

The husband-and-wife team at Booka Bookshop in Oswestry, have also noticed a similar period of growth last year and have been "heartened to see so many of our customers return" after lockdown restrictions eased in April last year.

Carrie Morris, co-owner of the shop, said: "We certainly feel that the 'buzz' is back in the bookshop. People see books as a way to connect and make sense of what has been a very unsettling time.

"Books also offer distraction and solace and in the grand scheme of things they are relatively inexpensive.

"Book sales have been very buoyant this year. Footfall in December was good despite the mixed messaging from the Government around Covid safety as we approached Christmas.

"Books have experienced a mini-renaissance as a result of the pandemic and this has continued in the latter half of 2021. The publishing industry has responded strongly and is in rude health.

"The quality and range of publishing means that bookshops have an ever-changing variety of exciting, timely and inspirational books on their shelves that are more reflective of the times and society we are living in."

Carrie noted some of the best-selling genres and titles this year included historic fiction with a Gothic twist, re-tellings of Greek myth, music biographies on the lead up to Christmas and the cosy crime.

Booka Bookshop will be planning a lot of author events for the year ahead and hope to maintain and increase their turnover across all their platforms from in-store purchases to online.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News