Bargains a hit in high street squeeze
19.03.10 | Graeme Neill

Chain bookshops and book clubs were the biggest retail losers in 2009, with value and volume sales declining, according to data by Book Marketing Limited.

At this week’s Books and the Consumer conference, BML research director Steve Bohme said the big winners in 2009 were bargain book chains. Volume sales in the sector increased by 11% year on year and by 4% in value terms. Bargain bookshops now have a volume market share of 7.6%, up from 6% in 2005. In value terms, the sector’s sales of £81m accounts for 3.7% of the book market.

The supermarket and internet sectors were the only other areas that increased volume sales, both by 3% in 2009. However, the value of those sales dropped by 2% online and by 1% in supermarkets.

In a difficult year for the British high street, volume and value sales for chain bookshops fell by 2% and 3% respectively in 2009. The volume market share of chain bookshops has fallen from 37% in 2005 to 33.5% last year. The sector accounted for £881m worth of sales, or a 39.9% share by value. While volume sales at independents dropped 4% in volume terms last year, value sales were up 1% to £239m.

However, it was direct mail booksellers who were hit heaviest. Sales dropped 16% to £246m last year and volume sales fell by 2%. The sector’s value market share is 11%.

Bohme said: “During the past five years, there has been a shift towards sources that sell cheaper books.” The average selling price of books bought at supermarkets fell 11.2% between 2005 and 2009 to £4.50. Online a.s.p. decreased by 19.7% to £8 over the same period. Bohme revealed 47% of books bought last year were for less than £5, up from 41% in 2005. However, despite this, only 9% said their purchases were primarily driven by price or offer.

Along with the market share of the bargain sector increasing since 2005, internet volume sales accounted for 14.3% of the market last year, compared to 9% in 2005. Supermarket volume share increased from 11% to 14.8% during the same period. Despite a swathe of closures in the indie sector, its volume share was flat at 8.6%.

BML’s data is from a panel of 15,000 individuals aged 12–79 that is representative of the population of Great Britain.

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