Booksellers Association: Membership Grows as Indie Stores Expand Reach
For the seventh straight year, the American Booksellers Association is reporting a membership surge. But, while independent booksellers appear to be doing well, wage and real-estate pressures could dampen growth down the road.
The internet may be shaking up the ways we read and write, but one industry focused on the written word isn’t struggling, by any means.
The American Booksellers Association says that the association saw its membership grow for the seventh straight year, increasing by 63 members to 1,775. Since 2009, the association’s membership has surged by more than 300 members, CEO Oren Teicher told The Associated Press.
“I am thrilled and delighted to be able to tell you that our trend has continued and we had another really strong year,” Teicher said.
The association, which has taken steps to strengthen its member offerings in recent years—including by helping to launch a national Independent Bookstore Day day last year and by selling books online—says that trends of new independent bookstores are working in the group’s favor. Teicher admits, however, that the pressure of increased minimum wages in some parts of the country, such as Seattle, are putting pressure on what has traditionally been a low-margin industry.
“Someone might tell you, ‘Well, you know, do what the supermarket does and charge a quarter more for milk. Pass on the increases to the consumer,'” Teicher told the AP. “But, as long as publishers continue to print the suggested retail price on the product, it’s hard to put a surcharge on it. It puts us in a peculiar position.”
Rising real-estate prices in urban markets are adding to the industry’s challenges. Both factors, he says, could lead to some “upward pressure on prices.”
On the plus side, Teicher said, sales are on the rise during the first part of this year, and bookstore openings, once rare, are now a frequent phenomenon. And, with e-books failing to be the industry killer that had long been feared, the sector comes into the biggest week of the literary year—the week of BookExpo America, which starts Wednesday, and BookCon, which starts Saturday—on yet another upswing.