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Market picks up after Blair bounce, but worries continue
12.09.10 | Victoria Gallagher
Hachette UK chief executive Tim Hely Hutchinson has said he expects the book trade to enjoy "a better Christmas season" this year with sales showing improvement over the last two months. But he warned that "market conditions continue to be very challenging" as recent industry statistics reveal a mixed picture for publishers and booksellers.
The book trade had its busiest week for 12 months last week as books by Tony Blair, Terry Pratchett, C J Sansom, Sophie Kinsella, Conn Iggulden, Val McDermid, Linwood Barclay, James Patterson, Derek Landy and Nigella Lawson all hit the shelves. According to Nielsen BookScan data, £31.5m was spent at UK book retail outlets last week, up 8.9% week-on-week and up 4.8% on the same week last year. It is the biggest week of year-on-year growth in almost 12 months—since the release of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (Bantam) in hardback in the middle of September last year boosted spending at booksellers by 12.1% year-on-year.
The figures give a hint that the market could be picking up, with Waterstone's yesterday reporting that the rate of its sales decline has slowed since the end of its financial year in April. Dominic Myers, Waterstone's m.d., told The Bookseller that he was "encouraged" by the numbers. According to Nielsen BookScan data, sales from January to June declined by 5.5% to £669,624,259. However, both July and August have seen growth of 0.1% and 0.4% respectively on the same months in 2009.
It follows a surprisingly poor half for UK publishers, with figures released by the Publishers Association, covering two-thirds of the publishing sector, showing that the first half of 2010 was worse than the first half of 2009. The PA figures, reported earlier in the week, show the value of publishers' sales from January to end-June fell 1% from £1.021bn to £1.011bn, a decline of just under 1%. But the numbers are worse than this time last year when UK publishers saw their first-half sales decrease by 0.5%, thanks to good export sales.
Hely Hutchinson said: "Hachette reported a strong first half which is not reflected in the overall figures for the trade for the same period as reported in the latest PA figures. We are looking forward to the best second half we have had since our record breaking year in 2007 and certainly our good figures over the summer will contribute to that."
He added: "However, in general, market conditions continue to be very challenging and although Nielsen Bookscan figures record an increase in sales during July and August, outstanding sales figures for a small number of books can have a marked short-term statistical effect. We will need to wait and see if this general improvement in sales is sustained over a longer period of time although we do expect the whole trade to enjoy a better Christmas season this year."