The health of the bookstores seems iron and not only because of the growth in sales in 2021. Between 2019 and 2020, 8,000 new permanent jobs were created, of which 5,000 were contracts signed by women. “We are a stable sector despite everything,” says Álvaro Manso, spokesman for the Spanish Confederation of Booksellers Guilds and Associations (CEGAL), which has just published the new annual data on the 3,200 independent bookstores – whose largest volume of business is books – that are part of the census. In the year of the pandemic, 41 establishments closed and 45 opened.
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The analysis prepared by the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Zaragoza discovers an atypical diagnosis for the disastrous consequences that the pandemic has caused in the economy of Spanish cultural industries. Bookstores have taken an important step against precariousness: 11% of them increased the number of permanent workers compared to 8.2% who reduced it. While 5% of them increased the number of temporary workers, 10.4% of them reduced them. In addition, the CEGAL report highlights that 60% of the workers in these establishments are booksellers and discovers that they are the majority in permanent positions and they have the majority of temporary positions.
The unprecedented growth in sales presence has been decisive in this leap against precariousness. on-line. The report indicates that before 2020 there were barely 20% of bookstores that sold through this channel, which in one year doubled. By force. In the year of the pandemic, the independent bookstores that used this channel grew to almost 40%. The businesses expanded during the confinement thanks to a commercial route that until now they had identified as the ally of Amazon. The appearance of allyourbooks.com it has been decisive in that sense.
Currently, according to the study, the average internet sales accounts for 12% of its annual turnover. There is still a lot of room for growth. In fact, the Ministry of Culture plans to allocate one million euros of European funds, as this newspaper has learned, to the digital development of the bookstore trade through the aforementioned platform. The analysis also shows that the more specialized in the bookstore, the more it sells. on-line.
Bookstores in emptied Spain
In 2020 it became clear that the value of a bookstore is beyond its walls, especially in cities. “The analysis shows that as billing increases, the number of bookstores that use the online channel increases notably,” says the report sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. 7% of the census are establishments, with billings per premises above € 600,000 per year in books. Almost 75% of these sell online.
Perhaps the worst data in the report is the number of establishments per 100,000 inhabitants. Just as in 2008 there were 15 bookstores and in 2014 it had fallen to 12, right now in Spain there is an average of 6.8 establishments per 100,000 inhabitants. Despite the fact that Madrid has the highest number of bookstores (441) followed by Catalonia (438), they have a very low percentage of shop density: 6.5% and 5.6% respectively. The best-endowed autonomies in this regard are Galicia (299) with 11.1%; La Rioja (10.6) with 10.6%; Castilla y León (252) with 10.5%; Navarra (68), 10.3%; and Asturias (103), 10.1%. Melilla (with three bookstores) is the worst stop, with 0.1%.
Spanish bookstores are a very resistant and vulnerable sector. A complicated paradox: half of the bookstores included are more than four decades old, but also half of them suffer to make ends meet because they bill less than 90,000 euros a year. In fact, the largest bookstores have a turnover of more than 1.5 million a year and have eleven workers and the smallest have a turnover of less than 90,000 euros, and it is usual that in these only the owner is the one who works. Álvaro Manso explains that those that invoice less than 90,000 euros are in rural areas. “They are the ones that have the worst of it. We have the Open Libraries project underway with which we intend to save them, but we are still waiting to provide it with a budget derived from European funds,” says the CEGAL spokesman.
In 2020, the Ministry of Culture approved an exceptional investment of four million euros in aid to “independent bookstores”, an unprecedented amount essential for the survival of these businesses. The mission of the injection was to finance structural adaptation and business maintenance projects to alleviate those situations derived from the emergency caused by COVID-19. Each bookstore could claim a maximum of 25,000 euros.