Black Country bookshop sales boom thanks to Covid 'reading renaissance'

Booksellers are enjoying a "reading renaissance" as sales hit a 10-year high in 2021 while people turned huge amounts of pages during the pandemic.

Jenny McCann, owner of the Bear Bookshop, Smethwick
Jenny McCann, owner of the Bear Bookshop, Smethwick

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

Despite a nationwide lockdown where bookshops were closed, 212 million print books were bought last year, marking a five per cent increase on 2020.

Both fiction and non-fiction titles enjoyed their highest sales of the decade and children's books even achieved a new lifetime record, according to a new survey by BookScan.

Independent bookshops have benefited from the triumphant surge of readers, particularly one children's bookshop in Bearwood.

After a difficult lockdown, manager Jenny McCann found plenty of people flocking to Bear Bookshop.

The 40-year-old mother of three said: "It was tricky for us in lockdown because we were brand new. But the first week we were open in April it was like Christmas, we were so busy. People were so excited to come to the shop.

"The level of enthusiasm for the shop from the local community has been lovely.

"Lots of people say how happy they are to come to an independent bookshop how they don't want to use Amazon anymore, because Amazon came out of the pandemic not looking particularly great.

"It gave people a stronger sense of community because we were all supporting each other."

Jenny was an English teacher and while on maternity leave, decided she wanted to do something different.

She set up Bear Bookshop in November 2020 which now regularly attracts parents looking for books to read with their children.

Jenny added: "You can see that people really want to be reading books with their children. When we were all at home home schooling, I read loads of books with my kids because we needed stuff to do.

"That was also a big push - we've had that different experience with our children that maybe previous generations hadn't had where we all had to be home educators.

"And I think that probably will have influenced our book-buying habits as well, people would have had that educational input that they might not otherwise have had."

Bear Bookshop specialises in "unusual books" and tries to introduce families to authors they might not have heard of.

The Anisha, Accidental Detective series by local author Serena Patel is a best-seller at the store, alongside fantasy books such as Jamie Littler's Frost Heart, while picture book author Julia Donaldson is a perennial favourite.

Jenny said: "Our biggest seller is the baby books, especially the interactive ones. And strong female characters have done really well for us too."

As book sales boom nationwide, Jenny feels positive about the future.

She added: "I'm so optimistic because I do think we're in a reading renaissance."

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