Harry, I’ll Meet You at the Bookstore

New bookstores are popping up across the United States, but these aren’t your old-school traditional stores.
March 31, 2024
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Harry Potter and Ron Weasley in the bookstore

A few years ago, the future of physical bookstores looked bleak. The industry was reeling from the trend toward digital books, then the COVID-19 global pandemic exacerbated the problem and forced many retailers to shut down. 

Bookstore sales fell more than 28% in 2020, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

Yet, the bookstore industry proved resilient – 200 additional stores are expected to open in the next two years.

So, what’s leading to the bounceback in new bookstores?

1. Big Box Chains Restructuring

Barnes and Noble, an American bookseller with the largest number of retail outlets in the U.S., had a strong 2023. They opened or remodeled 30 stores last year and plan to open 50 new stores in 2024, per Publishers Weekly. Part of Barnes and Noble’s success has been the departure from its famous cookie-cutter layouts and book stocking practices toward more independent, local-focused stores.

2. New Diversity-Focused Independent Bookstores

Many of the new stores opening around the country are prioritizing books for more diverse audiences:

  • The Salt Eaters Bookshop, a black-owned bookstore in Inglewood, CA, prioritizes books, comics, and zines by and about Black women, girls, femmes, and gender-expansive people
  • Reader’s Block, a Black-owned bookshop in Stratford, CT, delivers diverse book titles, workshops, events, and community involvement
  • Libros Bookmobile, a Latina-owned mobile bookstore in a converted school bus in Taylor, TX, is known for stocking Spanish fiction books

3. Combo-Themed Stores

Owners are getting creative and pairing bookstores with natural wines and great food to attract customers:

  • Kramers, a combo bookstore in Washington, D.C., features an all-day restaurant serving modern American cuisine with touches of French influence and live jazz music
  • Wild Child, a combo bookstore in Somerville, MA, lets you drink a glass of wine while you shop

4. Altruistic Owners

More owners are opening bookstores for altruistic reasons, such as wanting to give back to the community. One example that supports this is the rise in co-op bookstores, which share decision-making and profits with each store’s employees, customers, and communities.

In today’s world, where people tend to be very decisive on any topic, it's nice to see that bookstores are still a place where communities can unite.

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