Happy Independent Bookshop Week!
My favourite way to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, aside from buying lots of books, is of course looking at lots of data. Let’s see what BookScan and Books & Consumers can tell us about indie bookshops and their vital role on the UK high street.
First, we have the bestsellers. The top ten chart for general independent bookshops in the UK for 2022 so far has little in common with the overall BookScan chart: only one title, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman, appears in both lists. The novel is the only crime & thriller book in the indie top ten, whereas across all retailers, it’s joined by follow-up ‘The Man Who Died Twice’, ‘Better Off Dead’ by Lee Child & Andrew Child and ‘Verity’ by Colleen Hoover. However, there are more fiction books in general within the independents’ bestsellers, taking up the whole top ten, with ‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro in the pole position. Even just in the leading titles, we can see the impact that indies have in driving books beyond the overriding bestsellers.
If we compare those top ten indie titles to the fiction bestsellers for the total market, one additional book overlaps, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens, diverging from the broadly frontlist focus of the indie chart. Switching over to non-fiction, both ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy and ‘The Power of Geography’ by Tim Marshall appear in both top tens, but the remaining titles differ significantly, with the indie faves falling more into narrative non-fiction, as opposed to mostly cookery and self-help for the TCM (Total Consumer Market) bestsellers. With the top of the chart taken over by fiction, ‘Putin’s People’ by Catherine Belton doesn’t come into the overall indie chart until 14th, while the top children’s title (excluding £1 books) ranks 18th, compared to the total market where non-fiction appears at second and children’s at fifth.
The children’s bestsellers have the most in common, although not the number one book. ‘The Last Bear’ by Hannah Gold leads for sales through independents, while overall children’s bestseller ‘The World’s Worst Pets’ by David Walliams shifts down to eighth, behind ‘The Deep End’ by Jeff Kinney. The first two volumes of ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman claim the same position in either chart, but the similarities end there, with the indie chart featuring 2022 releases from Louie Stowell, Jamie Smart and Dermot O’Leary, as shown below.
Despite that fiction dominance at the top of the chart, non-fiction accounts for the largest share of purchases through independents, according to results from our Books & Consumers survey. Over the past few years, 44% of books bought through indie bookshops were non-fiction, followed by 29% children’s and 27% fiction (compared to 36%, 38% and 26% respectively for the total print market split). On an individual genre level, however, general fiction takes the lead, pointing back to those bestsellers above. Consumers who reported purchases through indie shops say that on average they buy more fiction than non-fiction or children’s, and results show that they buy more books in general than overall book buyers.
You probably could have guessed that, as it’s no surprise that indie shoppers love books! Beyond buying more books, consumers who bought from independent bookshops also read/listen to books daily or weekly in higher numbers and are more likely to recommend books and discuss/read about books. That discussion is important, with in-person recommendations from friends and family more impactful for indie purchases, along with recommendations from the staff in the shop. Nearly a third of books bought through indies were discovered via the shop itself, whether browsing, seeing in the shop window or getting recommendations, ahead of only one in five for the overall print market, solidifying what we know about indies using their knowledge and passion to champion books.
And that knowledge and passion keeps readers coming back. When asked why they chose the shop they did, consumers who shopped at indies were more likely to pick the selection, service, atmosphere and recommendations, as well as to support the shop or organisation. So what better time to support your local indie than Independent Bookshop Week? See what new favourite read they can help you discover!
Based on data from the BookScan UK Total Consumer Market (TCM) to 4th June 2022 and the Books & Consumers survey to January 2022.