A newly-opened bookshop in Alton has helped contribute to the sixth consecutive year of growth for independent booksellers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Goldfinch Books, which opened at 24 High Street, Alton, in November, is one of around 50 new independent bookshops to open across the UK and Ireland in 2022, according to Booksellers Association (BA) figures. The number of independent bookshops in membership of the BA at the end of 2022 was 1,072, up from 1,027 in 2021 and 867 in 2016.

This marks the highest number of independent bookshops in BA membership in ten years. Goldfinch Books is more than just a bookshop, but a community space and a place for “social interaction” and “creative stimulation” offering coffee, wine and craft beer alongside books.

The store has a special interest in mental health and plans to support mental health awareness and education through events and initiatives. The vision for the store, says owner Gary Clark, was “for a safe space for people to meet, enjoy books and creative arts – a destination and a place to spend time, not just shop”. In the two months since opening, he says, Goldfinch has had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community, which has been just the encouragement needed to support an expansion of events and initiatives through 2023.

The store is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5.30pm, and Sundays, 10am to 4pm, with late opening through to 9pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. In the coming weeks, Goldfinch is hosting book clubs, a games night, a creative writing course, poetry open mic, and other events to bring the community together in a creatively-inspiring environment.

Meryl Halls, managing director at the Booksellers Association, said the growth in independent bookshops is “particularly pleasing” as it brings “new energy” to the industry.

Independent booksellers across the area include: Haslemere Books – High Street, Haslemere, Blue Bear Bookshop – The Borough, Farnham, Laurence Oxley – Broad Street, Alresford, One Tree Books – Lavant Street, Petersfield, The Petersfield Bookshop – Chapel Street, Petersfield, Goldfinch Books – Alton.