An Irish bookseller has thanked the public for the “remarkable support” they gave the industry during the pandemic.
In 2020 when the country first went into lockdown, many book shops were unsure if they could survive the crisis. However, two years on most are thriving once again and Maria Dickenson says that is down to so many loyal customers:
“It’s incredible to believe we are where we are today,” Ms Dickenson told Down to Business.
“Thinking back to this time literally two years ago when we were all unsure would our businesses make it to the end of the year - but it’s been absolutely remarkable support that the Irish public have shown for Irish bookshops, Irish authors, Irish publishers during the course of the pandemic.
“People really turned to reading… Most of the growth came in fiction. People really turned to books, they’re such a wonderful solace and distraction when times are tough.”
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Economist Jim Power recently completed a study of the industry in Ireland and found that the nation currently has 220 bookshops - of which 134 are independent and 86 which are part of a chain.
The industry keeps some 1,700 people in work and in 2021 enjoyed a turnover of €165 million - thanks to sales in excess of 13 million books.
“These bookshops have an incredibly strong regional footprint,” Mr Power said.
“In fact there’s at least one bookshop in every county in Ireland - so that’s also important.
“But I worked through that turnover, the employment, the rundown into the publishing industry and all the associated industries, the multiplier effect and all that.
“And the footprint in terms of gross value added is around 189 million euro - so a significant contribution to the overall economy.”
However, he warned that while things on paper look much brighter for the industry than they have done in years, he still expects it to face significant in the years to come:
“Despite the buoyancy of the sector at the moment, there is still a lot of challenge out there,” he continued.
“The competition from Amazon, the cost of doing business, commercial rates and all of that.
“And the other thing I think that’s really important to remember is that bookshops are you’re typical SME [Small and Medium-sized Enterprises], they’re your typical local business.
“So I think, overall Government policy towards the SME sector generally, and bookshops in particular as a key part of the fabric of towns and cities, is going to be really important.”
Main image: A pile of new books lies on a sales counter in a bookshop in the Bornheim district. Photo: Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa/Frank Rumpenhorstdpa