Posted November 13, 2019 09:23:37A Christmas surge in book sales and a slump in Christmas book sales over the past few years is giving some publishers pause.
The numbers are clear: The festive season is a boon for book sales, but they are not translating into a resurgence in sales or revenue growth for publishers.
That is a worry for publishers, especially those that have been struggling to survive the economic downturn.
In the last year, holiday book sales have plunged by more than 80 per cent in the U.S. compared with last year and book sales for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day have declined by more.
And it is not just about the holidays.
Last year, the U,S.
retail sales for booksellers and authors were down by 10.4 per cent and 13.4 percent respectively, according to data from BookScan, an online marketplace that tracks books.
“The Christmas season has really hurt bookseller revenues, and the recession is making it even worse,” said Kevin Kelly, senior vice-president of sales at publishing giant Baker.
The holiday slump is also affecting the way bookstores sell books.
A survey of 3,000 booksellors by The Information, an independent publisher, found that bookstores are increasingly struggling to meet the demand for books that are still on sale, despite a recent surge in the number of books available.
Baker, which sells nearly 40 per cent of all new book titles in Canada, said it has had to make a “difference between the holiday season and what was happening last year.”
“We were experiencing a lull in sales that is now affecting our business and, with that, it is very hard to attract new bookstores,” said Shannon McCrea, Baker’s director of public relations.
The fall in book prices has also been a major factor in bookseller’s reluctance to stock books.
That has also contributed to a sharp drop in bookstores.
Last year the average price of a book sold in Canada was $10.43, down from $12.96 in 2016, according the BookScan survey.
The average book price for new titles in the United States was $13.69, down 3.7 per cent from last year.
“I think this has really hit retailers,” said Scott Haskins, executive vice-chair of bookseller and distributor B.C. Bookstore Group.
“I think the downturn in the holiday period has been huge for retailers.
They’re not selling any new book.”
Haskins said retailers are also losing a lot of money on their holiday season sales.
“When you see the numbers and the impact, I think it’s just too much,” Haskens said.
“The people who are selling the most book are selling at the lowest prices in the year, which is not going to be sustainable.”
“There are so many other things going on in the retail world that are affecting bookselling and that is certainly something that I think is really hurting,” said Kelly.
“It’s a big concern for us, and that’s why we’ve made a big investment in the bookstores.”
Baker said it will spend $40 million to make the holiday surge of booksellings “even more effective.”
It will also introduce a new bookseller portal, and it is offering its own “BookShelter” program, where customers can book a book, buy it from a retailer and store it in their own home.
Kelly said he is optimistic about the recovery.
“It’s not that the holiday sales are falling, it’s that retailers are not buying as much book and the booksellier community is not buying the same amount of books,” he said.
“We’re seeing some growth in that space, but I’m not confident that’s going to continue.”
B.C.’s BookScan study found that overall bookstores saw a 26 per cent jump in booksellor sales in the past year.
And it found that the number who are actively selling books has increased to 3,400 from 1,500 a year ago.
“With that jump in sales, the retailers have also experienced a significant boost in the volume of sales they can get from their bookstores, and we’re seeing that trend continue,” said McCrea.
B.J. Smith, chief operating officer of the publishing industry’s trade group Publishers & Authors Canada, says it is “extremely frustrating” that some retailers are being left out of the holiday rush.
“Some of our members have experienced a dip in bookselling over the last couple of years and we know that we’ve got to be ready to do more,” he wrote in an email to CBC News.
“We’re looking to the publishers to help us make the most of the current book season.”
In an email, Smith said that “it is critical that all stakeholders