For bookstores, an astonishing miracle linked to the pandemic

They are fourteen installed in a classroom in Maisons-Alfort (Val-de-Marne). Aged in their early thirties to their fifties and coming from all professional backgrounds, from industry to pharmacy, hospital or publishing, these students are following, on this Monday, November 15, their L ‘training. Bookstore school to prepare for opening, or taking over, a business.

If, during the Covid-19 pandemic, bookstores acquired an extraordinary aura, it is in this school, the main provider of new recruits, that we see how this profession attracts vocations. Its director, Caroline Meneghetti, observes “A sharp increase in the number of registrants”. And increasingly motivated candidates. Of the 120 people who follow the five weeks of theoretical training each year (to which will be added one to three months of internship), half now open a bookstore, whereas they were only a third before the health crisis. , she explains.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers “We have never talked so much about bookstores”: the book does not know the crisis

The National Book Center has thus supported up to 1.37 million euros (in loans and grants) ten bookstore creations in 2020 and thirty in 2021. During this period, ten grants were refused and twenty applications deemed ineligible. In France, there were already 3,500 independent bookstores in 2019. “To avoid installing one in each village, we are not adding new training sessions. They are already complete until July 2022 ”, emphasizes Caroline Meneghetti.

“We are not trying to embellish the profession”

Before the pandemic, the majority of retraining involved people over 40 who “Wanted to give meaning to their life and return to a region where they had family”, testifies Alexia Dumaine, trainer at the school and former bookseller. “With the Covid, we see a rejuvenation of interns, who, unhappy in their work, decide to retrain”, she adds.

“A lot of people want to leave Paris to create a bookstore”, confirms Jean-Guy Boin, member of the Association for the development of creative bookstores, which will have helped 23 bookstore creations between 2020 and 2021. Much more than usual. “This is good news, but the necessary professionalism is not always there. In the cultural trade, There are commerce and culture”. It should not be forgotten ”, he recalls.

This renewed attraction for the profession is not without its setbacks. According to the latest study by the Xerfi institute commissioned by the Syndicat de la librairie française (SLF) and published in May 2019, independent bookstores are among the least profitable of retail businesses, with only 1.2% net profit compared to to turnover. “We are absolutely not trying to embellish the profession”, assure Caroline Meneghetti.

You have 68.56% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.