There were 967 independents in the UK and Ireland at the end of last year, the most since 2013 – but the figure masks around 100 closures

Jane James was a freelance bookkeeper until the pandemic hit and most of her business disappeared. Rather than waiting for it to trickle back, she decided to embark on a dream she’d held for more than a decade and open her own independent bookshop in Thetford, Norfolk.

She’s not the only one. Last year might have seemed like a strange time to launch a new business, but according to figures from the Booksellers Association, more than 50 new bookshops were opened in 2020, taking the body’s independent bookshop membership to 967 shops in the UK and Ireland. This is up from 890 shops in 2019, 883 in 2018 and 868 in 2017. The latter figure marked the end of a decline that started in 1995, when 1,894 indie bookshops were recorded.

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