May’s book sales hit four-year low
03.06.10 | Philip Stone

Book sales in May slumped to a four-year low, according to book industry statisticians Nielsen BookScan.

According to data from the 8,000-plus UK book retail outlets that comprise its Total Consumer Market panel, £100.7m was spent on books ­during the four weeks to 29th May ­period, down 4% on the comparative period last year and down 1.6% and 6.1% on sales in May 2008 and 2007 respectively. Volume sales in May 2010 were down 5.7% year on year to 13.9 million.

BookScan’s General Retail Market panel, a good indicator of high street bookshop performance (although it includes branches of both Tesco and Asda), reported May sales down 6% year on year in value terms.

It follows a disastrous April for the trade in which sales across the four weeks to 1st May period were down 11.7% year on year to £98.2m. It means that over the two months, £17.3m less was spent this year on books than in 2009.

Based on an analysis of the weekly top 5,000 bestseller lists, the poor performance of the non-fiction market appears to be the root cause of sluggish sales in recent weeks. Helped by the solid performance of Stieg Larsson’s Millen­nium trilogy (Quercus) and the young adult dark romance genre, sales of novels and children’s books respectively have been relatively flat year on year, while the success of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie Does . . . (Michael Joseph) has boosted sales of cookbooks year on year. However, sales within such sectors as biography/memoirs, travel guides, true crime and travel literature have been far poorer in 2010 than in recent years.

As reported yesterday, £26.1m was spent on books during the seven days to 29th May, up 10.2% week on week and up 2.9% on the same week last year. It is the first time 2010’s weekly book sales have been ahead of 2009 since the beginning of April.

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