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German sales drop in 2012, outlook 'mixed'
25.07.12 | Anja Sieg
The adverse economic environment and consumers who are cutting down on their spending are finally catching up with the German book industry. While last year sales were down only marginally by 1.4% to €9.6bn (£7.48bn), the downward spiral has gathered speed in recent months.
According to monthly statistics compiled by trade paper Buchreport, sales in the first half of 2012 fell 2.8%. June was the only month so far up on last year with a solid 3.2% rise. After five months sales were trailing year on year by 3.9%. E-book sales have not been incorporated in these figures as they are still of low statistical relevance.
The outlook for the second half is mixed. The ongoing Euro crises, uncertainty over the impact e-books will eventually have on the sale of printed books and changing customers’ buying habits have many in the trade worried that the worst is still to come. A good indicator will be July, a month in which tills are traditionally ringing strongly, fuelled by holiday reading and schoolbook sales.
While Germany’s leading high street chains have not yet pressed the panic button, they are clearly retrenching. Since autumn 2011, selling space of approximately 32,000 square metres have reportedly been closed or are in the process of doing so.
Following market adjustments in Berlin the leading chains are now focussing on the densely populated Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area where only a few years ago they opened new branches at any cost: family-owned Mayersche, for example, closed at short notice its 4,000 square feet bookshop in one of Cologne’s top locations; Thalia is closing branches of 1,200 square metres and 2,000 square metres respectively in Dortmund and Essen.