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28.12.12 | Philip Stone
Sales of printed books soared to a three-year high in the UK last week as shoppers flooded the high street in search of last-minute Christmas gifts.
A total of £75.4m was spent on printed books in the seven days to 22nd December - up 19.3% (£12.2m) on the previous week. Sales were up 1% (£1.4m) on the comparative week last year, which ended on a trading hour-reduced Saturday 24th December. It was the strongest week of printed book sales in revenue terms for the book trade since the week ending 19th December 2009 when £75.7m was spent in seven days.
Nielsen BookScan's General Retail Market panel of booksellers, which includes the likes of W H Smith, Waterstones, and general independent stores, therefore offering a good indicator of high street bookshop performance, reported sales grew by a massive 52% week on week, to £49.6m. However, sales were down 8.4% on the comparative week last year, suggesting that supermarkets fared better with celebrity books in the run-up to the big day, while shoppers took advantage of the longer final week to order online.
Jamie Oliver's 15-minute Meals (Michael Joseph) proved once again the bestselling book in the UK. Sales of his £26 cookbook, which sold for just £12.47 on average, totalled 140,155 copies in the UK last week - up 19% week on week. It retains pole position in the Official UK Top 50 ahead of Miranda Hart's Is it Just Me? (Hodder) and Bradley Wiggins' My Time (Yellow Jersey), which sold 64,691 copies and 59,524 units respectively.
Guinness World Records 2013 falls two places to fourth position week on week, with the August 2012-published film tie-in edition of J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit (HarperCollins) completing the top five. The latter sold 44,724 copies at UK bookshops last week and was one of six different print editions of the bestselling novel to take more than £10,000 through bookshop tills. In total, The Hobbit sold 72,900 copies across its numerous physical editions, up 38% week on week.
Yann Martel's Life of Pi (Canongate) was another novel to enjoy a big-screen sales boost. Sales of the Man Booker winner jumped 62% to 39,140 copies sold across all print editions.
Other books that received a big upsurge in popularity in the final week before Christmas included: Sue Townsend's The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year (Penguin, up 52%); Nigella Lawson's Nigellissima (Chatto, up 53%); Dawn French's Oh Dear Silvia (Michael Joseph, up 69%); HarperSport's Sky's the Limit (up 634%), and Waterstones' "book of the year" Russell Norman's Polpo (Bloomsbury, up 85%).