At the annual meeting of the American Booksellers Association on Thursday, both CEO Oren Teicher and incoming president Betsy Burton, owner of the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, confirmed that indie booksellers continue to make a comeback.
For the sixth year in a row the number of independent bookstores has grown. ABA added 48 members, for a total of 1,712, up from a core membership of 1,401 in 2009. The total number of locations also grew to 2,227 from 1,651 in 2009. Even more impressive, as Teicher pointed out, sales at independent bookstores were up for 47 out of 52 weeks. And despite the brutal cold and massive snows throughout the Northeast, booksellers managed to hold on to last year's gains for 16 out of the first 17 weeks this year.
"Of course, the localism movement continues to play a role," said Teicher, explaining the factors that have helped independents grow. He also regards publishers' willingness to rethink outmoded business practices as a key ingredient.
Earlier in the day at the ABA Celebration of Bookselling and Author Awards Luncheon, Teicher credited the seeds of the resurgence to his predecessor, Avin Domnitz, and "his passionate belief that the best educational tools would help independent bookstores reinvent themselves." Teicher, along with several past ABA presidents, presented an award in Domnitz's honor to Domnitz's wife Rita. .
Challenges still remain. "The actions of some publishers, at times, seem as if they are so focused on the short-term gains of direct sales to consumers that they lose sight of the much greater potential that comes from directing those sales to indie bookstores."
Teicher acknowledged that it will take hard work for independent stores to pay employees the living wage they deserve and stay on top of real estate increases.
Ultimately though, Teicher said, "I remain optimistic and confident that the best days of independent bookselling are ahead."