The owner of the first independent bookstore in Glasgow city centre says he hopes customers will be happy to wear masks to keep the fledgling business open amid evidence showing that such shops are helping high streets recover.

Michael McCann opened the Gallery Bookshop a few weeks ago and said the reaction from the public has been “amazing”.

He runs the business almost single-handedly and has requested that customers wear masks in an effort to help him avoid having to take time off work due to Covid, which he says could leave him with no option but to close.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it would be sensible for people to start wearing face masks indoors again as new figures revealed one in 20 people in Scotland now have the virus.

The shop is part of the Glasgow Gallery of Photography, which Mr McCann launched in 2015 to give emerging photographers a platform to sell their work online.

The new Gallery Bookshop in Glasgow's Merchant City. Research shows bookshops are helping UK high streets recover

He said interest “quickly grew”, allowing him to open a gallery in 2019 in the city’s Savoy Centre as part of independent business collective Colab.

With £300 on his credit card, he posted a call-out on social media for 160 photographs which would be framed and exhibited.

READ MORE: Lotus sports car commissioned for new Highland cinema 

“Being a photographer myself, I knew how expensive it is to print and frame your work, so we offered to do it for £20,” said Mr McCann.

“We did it as an experiment but it was really popular and we were getting entries from Brazil and Austria.

“We had thought about a crowdfunding appeal to launch the gallery but, instead, I thought ‘we will cut out the middleman’.

The new Gallery Bookshop in Glasgow's Merchant City. Research shows bookshops are helping UK high streets recover

“The gallery was going for six months and was doing amazingly well and then along came Covid.

“After Colab folded, our rent went up by 740%.”

When a vacant unit became available in the Merchant City, the business was relocated there but Mr McCann realised he needed another source of income to help finance the gallery.

He said: “I remember going through to Edinburgh and seeing all these lovely independent bookstores and thought ‘Glasgow doesn’t have anything like that’.

“The bookstore supports the gallery and the gallery supports the bookshop.”

The new Gallery Bookshop in Glasgow's Merchant City. Research shows bookshops are helping UK high streets recover

Bookshops are playing a vital role in the recovery and regeneration of UK high streets after they were hit hard by the pandemic, according to a study published last year by researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

A survey of 150 booksellers found that 80% believed the businesses contributed to at least 20 of the 25 priorities for successful towns, with 99% contributing to innovation, appearance and cleanliness.

In 2017, Highland author and multi-millionaire entrepreneur Angus MacDonald opened Fort William’s first bookshop in almost half a century.

READ MORE: Discover seven quirky independent bookshops in Scotland 

The business was recently named among the top 62 independent bookstores across the UK.

“We didn’t set out to be a bookshop in the city centre but the reaction has been amazing,” said Mr McCann.

“There are other bookshops in Glasgow city centre but they specialise in art or poetry.

“We are a traditional bookshop with fiction, non-fiction and second-hand books.

“What I didn’t realise is that there is a real community here, lots of people live in the city centre. That’s been nice to see.”