Bookshops are playing a vital role in the recovery and regeneration of high streets in towns across the UK and Ireland, according to early findings from a study by the Institute of Place Management (IPM) at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Working with the Booksellers Association of UK & Ireland (BA), IPM researchers asked over 150 bookshop staff to gauge how bookshops bolster the community.

Booksellers were asked how their retail operations and strategy supported the 25 priorities for successful towns, which were identified by the IPM in previous research.

The priorities included diversity and innovation in the community, retail offering, appearance of the town, plus benchmarks for a town’s range of services and goods, alongside the general vision and leadership expressed through partnerships and relationships with local councils.

The 25 priorities were summarised into four questions each, producing a survey which was presented to booksellers. Results so far show more than 80% of booksellers contribute to at least 20 of the 25 priorities, with 99% contributing to innovation, appearance and cleanliness in a town.

The survey also found that 98% of booksellers increase the pedestrianisation of a town, while 96% contribute to the functionality and role of the high street, which promotes the local economy.

Booksellers were also found to be champions at reducing barriers to entry, through work experience programmes and local hiring, alongside reducing crime.

Important role of booksellers
Lead researcher Professor Cathy Parker, Co-Chair of the IPM at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “The fact that 80% of booksellers contribute significantly to the priorities for successful towns was much higher than expected.

“Of course, we expected bookshops to add to the retail offer, the merchandise, and the diversity of towns but we were surprised to see how many contributed to the general appearance of the town, the collective marketing effort and the organisation and participation in events and festivals.”

Meryl Halls, Managing Director at the Booksellers Association, which commissioned the research, said: “We have always known the important role our members play within their communities, acting as leaders on the high street and providing spaces for book lovers to come together and share their passion for reading.

“This important research from the IPM helps show just how vital bookshops are for our towns and cities. It’s gratifying that such a respected organisation as the IPM recognises what booksellers have to offer and do provide.”

The survey findings are currently being followed up with interviews with bookshop owners and managers, including Village Books, Blackwell’s, Mabecron Books and Waterstones among others.


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