First quarter book sales lowest since 2006
07.04.10 | Philip Stone

Book sales have improved since the dire first two months of the year, but are still well down on 2009, according to analysis of Nielsen BookScan’s first quarter data. The figures show that book spend in the first quarter was at its lowest ebb since 2006, with the year-on-year decline of 5.9% the highest since records began in 2001.

The sales data, which cover the first 13 weeks of 2010 to 27th March, show that the inclement weather in January and early February had a catastrophic effect on sales, particularly sales of self-help books and Christmas left-overs. By the end of January, spending on books was down around 8% year on year, with booksellers in Scotland and the north of England the worst hit.

By 27th March, sales had improved and the £362.5m spent on books in 2010 thus far is down a shallower 5.9% on the comparative period last year—but it is still the largest negative gap in year-on-year sales seen since records began in 2001. And the total figure is the lowest amount spent on books in any first quarter since 2006.

BookScan year-to-date Top 5,000 data suggests that, despite the sharp year-on-year sales declines of Stephenie Meyer and the comparitive unpopularity of this year’s £1 World Book Day titles, children’s book sales are relatively flat year on year—helped by strong sales in the Dark Romance genre and bestsellers from the likes of Jeff Kinney, Jacqueline Wilson, Julia Donaldson and Rick Riordan.

And in fiction, sales within the first 13 weeks have been relatively stable in comparison year on year, with titles by Alice Sebold, Dan Brown, Sophie Kinsella and the late Stieg Larsson all taking more than £500,000 through UK book retailer tills.

Non-fiction however, has struggled, with sales within the aforementioned biography/memoir and personal development categories significantly down year on year, alongside poor travel sector sales once again. As reported yesterday the celebrity sales malaise of last autumn has continued into 2010, with sales down more than half on the same period last year.

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