Many stores also saw their profits increase. In a survey of booksellers earlier this year, the association found that around 80% of respondents said they saw higher sales in 2021 than in 2020, and nearly 70% said their sales last year were higher than 2019, Ms Hill said.
At Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, revenue rose 20% in 2021, and the store made more money last year than in 2019, according to owner Valerie Koehler. Mitchell Kaplan, the founder of Books & Books, an independent chain in South Florida, said sales were up more than 60% in 2021 compared to 2020.
Many of the new stores that have opened during the pandemic are run by non-white booksellers, including The salt eaters bookstore in Inglewood, Calif., which specializes in books written by and about black women, girls, and non-binary people; the Bookmobile Librosa Latina-owned mobile bookstore in a converted school bus in Taylor, Texas, that stocks fiction in Spanish and English, and Reader Blocka black-owned bookstore in Stratford, Connecticut.
Terri Hamm decided to open Kindred Stories in Houston when her daughter, now 14, said she was bored with the books her mother brought her home to read. An avid reader, she gravitates around books on black youth.
“I realized that she didn’t have space in Houston to discover and explore all of the amazing works in the market written by black voices,” Ms. Hamm said. “There was no organized space thinking about her.”
The rapid growth of physical bookstores is particularly surprising at a time when physical stores face overwhelming competition from Amazon and other online retailers. Many bookstore owners are also facing new uncertainties related to a bleak outlook for the global economy – labor shortages, supply chain failure, rising rents and interest rates, rising the cost of goods and the impending recession which could depress consumer spending.