Supermarkets show ‘most dramatic’ rise in bookselling since 1989
05.05.10 | Graeme Neill

Supermarkets and the internet have shown the most dramatic growth in market share over the past two decades at the expense of “book and stationery stores” and direct mail booksellers, according to the latest data from Book Marketing Ltd. Dedicated books stores have also increased their market share over the twenty-year period.

The research company, which has examined the changes in the trade over the past 20 years in its Books and Consumers surveys, showed the sharpest drop in where adults bought books was in book and stationery stores. While approximately 41% purchased books in such retailers during 1989, only 24% did in 2009. Direct mail booksellers were also affected, having attracted 21% of adults buying books in 1989, but only 12% last year.

Supermarkets, meanwhile, saw their share of the market grow from just 9% of adults in 1989 to 20% last year – the biggest climb for retailers already in existence 20 years ago. The internet has grown from nothing in 1989 to having 18% of adults buy books through the channel last year.

Steve Bohme, research director at BML, said: “The most dramatic, eye-catching change is the growth of the supermarket sector.”

Bohme put this largely down to the abolition of the Net Book Agreement in 1995. This, he said, “had a big effect on the market, opening it up to some of the retailers that may not
have come into it otherwise unless they could price promote.”
Dedicated bookshops also had a successful 20 years, representing a third of adult book purchases last year, compared with 26% in 1989.

Because of changes in its surveying methodology, the earliest BML can give a like-for-like comparison of changes in the entire book market is 1997. During this period, supermarkets and the internet are once again the big winners in volume terms, with supermarkets’ volume share growing from 6% to 15%. The internets’ share grew from nil in 1997 to 14% last year.

Independents’ volume share decreased from 15% to 9% during the period while chain booksellers’ share contracted slightly from 37% to 34%

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