A new national survey says Tennessee has lost more than a third of its full-time bookstore jobs in the past decade.
It also says the state’s bookstores are experiencing a slowdown as new bookstores close, a trend that has been exacerbated by the recession.
The national survey from The NPD Group and the Association of Booksellers and Authors says Tennessee lost more full- and part-time booksellers in the first nine months of 2017 than any other state, with more than half of them in the Chattanooga area.
“The recession has been a big problem for Tennessee,” said John Stoehr, president of the Nashville-based bookseller association.
“We’ve had more bookstores closing than openings.”
He said bookstores have been closing for years in Tennessee, but that the downturn has been so severe that there is a real shortage of bookstores.
“It’s really hard to fill all the openings,” Stoeh said.
Tennessee’s bookseller population is expected to grow in 2020 and hit 9.5 million in 2020, according to the survey.
The NPI says Tennessee’s population grew more than 4.5% from 2009 to 2020, but book sales have fallen.
“As bookstores continue to close, we’re seeing the industry slow to grow,” said Gary Harkins, a senior analyst for the NPD group.
“There are a lot of new retailers, and they’ve been hiring fewer people.”
The survey says that the number of full- or part-timers working in bookstores has dropped by more than 20% since 2009.
That includes more than 100,000 full-timters who quit in the last nine months.
Tennessee has also lost jobs for all booksellors over the past 10 years.
Harkings said booksells are seeing layoffs across the board.
“A lot of people are having to work fewer hours, and less of the time, than they used to,” he said.
“They’re not doing that well, so there’s less time for sales, less time to go out and meet people.”
Stoe, who has owned a book store in Chattanooga for 10 years, said he is losing about 15% of his staff.
“You’re losing the people who have been there for a long time, people who’ve been there a long, long time,” Stueh said of the booksellership community.
“Some people are making it.
Some people aren’t.”
In Nashville, there are about 5,600 booksellings in the city, according the NPI.
But many are still closed, and the city’s booksellier community is still struggling.
“If you don’t have the right people, you can’t get the right book,” Steeh said about the bookstores in Nashville.
“I don’t know that I would be here if I wasn’t working.”
The NPU report says bookstores that closed in the 1990s, like the one in Nashville, have closed since then, as have those in Nashville’s historic neighborhoods.
The booksellery sector in the Nashville area has shrunk by nearly 2,000 jobs over the last decade.
“This is a very bad situation for Tennessee bookstores,” Harkys said.
He said the downturn in book sales is a major reason bookstores were closing and why so many people are not in the industry.
“That is a huge challenge,” Hader said.
Hader also pointed to the fact that bookstores across the country are closing more often and more quickly.
“Bookstores are closing because the economy is bad,” he added.
“People are looking for other things.”
The National Association of State Bookseller Administrators says that bookselling in Tennessee is booming, but there is no guarantee bookstores will continue to be open.
“Many people in Tennessee still don’t believe the book industry is dying, and we still think there’s plenty of opportunity for the industry to recover,” said Nancy Suggs, president and CEO of the NPU.
She said bookshops are still finding ways to keep going.
“In the last few years, I’ve seen more bookselllers in Chattanooga.
The city has become a hub for booksellering,” SuggSuggs said.
But she said that the Nashville region is experiencing its own booksellergrowth.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is that there’s a lot more bookselling,” she said.
Bookstores have found ways to attract more people and expand their business, said John McPhee, president emeritus of the Tennessee Booksellership Association.
“But the real challenge for bookstores is not necessarily to fill those jobs,” McPherson said.
The decline of bookselling is not just a national issue, he said, adding that it’s also a local problem.
“Tennessee is not the only state experiencing a bookseller crisis,” he noted.
“What I’m seeing is a