Dire January fails to thaw frozen early 2010 sales

Dire January fails to thaw frozen early 2010 sales

Spending at UK booksellers in January 2011 was up just 0.7% on a dire January last year when the "big freeze" plunged book sales to a five-year low. According to Nielsen BookScan data, £108.6m was spent at UK booksellers in the four weeks to 29th January, up just £750,000 year-on-year, and down £7.9m (6.8%) on 2009. Volume sales in January 2011 fell 3.3%, to 14.8m, year-on-year, while average selling prices increased slightly (by 4.1%, or 30 pence), to £7.32.

According to BookScan Top 5,000 bestseller list data over the four-week period, sales within the fiction sector were down 4% year-on-year, despite a slight increases in sales of graphic novels. Hardback fiction sales seem the hardest hit—just four hardback novels sold more than 10,000 copies in January 2011 compared to seven last year. Meanwhile, science-fiction sales were hit by the fact that Charlaine Harris and Raymond E Feist got off to a solid start in 2010.

Despite increases in sales of pre-school books and non-fiction year-on-year, sales within the children's sector were down in January—principally due to a fall in sales of children's annuals and Stephenie Meyer's huge sales in January last year. All four of her Twilight novels sold more than 50,000 copies in January last year. Her bestseller this January was Breaking Dawn (Atom) with sales of a much lower 17,000.

Non-fiction book sales, in comparison were up year-on-year, despite sales declines in sub-genres such as "Pets & Equine", travel guides (a genre in free-fall), true crime and military memoirs (despite the popularity of Ben MacIntyre's Operation Mincemeat).

Thanks to the popularity of Rhonda Byrne's recent release, The Power, and her old one, The Secret (both S&S), sales of Mind, Body & Spirit titles were up year-on-year in January, while the Gardening sector was boosted by strong sales of Carol Klein's BBC tie-in, Life in a Cottage Garden (BBC). The Food & Drink genre, thanks to Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and former supermodel Lorraine Pascale, has also enjoyed a solid 2011 thus far, while the Self Improvement sector has been boosted year-on-year by a new Paul McKenna—the hypnotist's I Can Make You Happy (Bantam Press) has sold 26,000 copies since publication.

There were also solid sales boosts in January for biographies and memoirs (127 Hours and Eat Pray Love proving popular alongside the celebrity tomes by Keith Richards, Michael McIntyre, Stephen Fry and Denise Welch), while the history sector's increase in sales year-on-year is largely down to independent bookshop hit Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects (Allen Lane).