Books among the worst performers in January, says BRC
09.02.10 | Graeme Neill

Book sales have had their worst monthly performance since summer 2008, according to new figures released by the British Retail Consortium. Last month’s heavy snow was blamed as the main cause of slumping non-food sales. The BRC said UK retail sales values fell 0.7% on a like-for-like basis from January 2009, when sales had risen 1.1%. On a total basis, sales rose 1.2% against a 3.2% increase in January 2009.

According to the BRC, books were among the poorest performing categories in leisure goods. The BRC said: “Book sales fell further, to show their worst year-on-year decline since July 2008, as snow-hit shoppers put off non-essential purchases. Interest in non-fiction celebrity titles has faded markedly. Toys continued to do well. Some noted gains in electronic and computer games to amuse those kept indoors by snow. Sports and keep fit equipment also benefited.”

The BRC figures are broadly backed up by Nielsen BookScan numbers, which for the four weeks ending 30th Jan 2010, show value sales down 7.4% to £107.8m, with volume down 1.1% to 15.3m.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: “A very mixed performance in January which was impacted by a number of factors. The snow in the early part of the month caused consumers to

stock up on food related items as travelling the country became treacherous while non-food suffered.

“As the month progressed, clothing and footwear picked up considerably but other non-food sectors continued to show weakness. Although the results were flattered by the impact of higher shop prices, given the higher VAT rate in January 2010 compared to January 2009, this was less pronounced than in December. The underlying trend is difficult to read but there is no doubt that the strong sales we saw in December 2009 are not indicative of the trend for the rest of this year.”

The BRC numbers have escalated fears about a so-called double-dip recession, according to some reports todays.

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