News

Sales slump to eight-year low in Royal Wedding week

Booksellers suffered their poorest sales in almost eight years last week with spending on physical books slumping by 12% week-on-week.

According to Nielsen BookScan data, spending at UK book retail outlets in the seven days to 30th April 2011 totalled just £20.8m, down £2.8m on the previous week and down 20% (£5.1m) on the same week last year. It was booksellers' poorest week of sales since the week ending 31st May 2003 when just £20.2m was spent at UK bookshops in seven days. Sales were down 15% (£3.8m) on the comparative post-Easter week last year.

The mass-market edition of Jilly Cooper's Jump! (Corgi) was the bestselling book in a dire week for booksellers, scoring the novelist her third number one in a row. Her previous two novels, Wicked and Pandora, both reached the summit of The Official UK Top 50. However, Jump! reached top spot with the lowest sale from an Official UK Top 50 chart-topper since September 2002. A total of just 17,337 copies were sold last week in its first week on UK bookshop shelves.

Patricia Cornwell’s Port Mortuary (Sphere), the novelist’s 18th Kay Scarpetta thriller, débuts in second place in the Top 50, while Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker winning The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury) joins in third thanks in part to a spot in WH Smith’s “£2.99 with the Times” link-save promotion. Jeffery Deaver's The Burning Wire (Hodder) takes fourth position overall, meaning authors represented by agents Curtis Brown take each of the top four positions and, with Catherine Alliott charting in 10th place, five of the top 10.

Last week's chart-topper, Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen, falls to fifth position overall, a week after she scored her first ever Official UK Top 50 number one and (in tandem with Jackie Collins’ Goddess of Vengeance) gave publisher Simon & Schuster its first ever double-fiction number one. Simon & Schuster became only the seventh publisher in the past five years to achieve this feat.

Collins holds top spot in this week’s Original Fiction list, ahead of two new entries; James Patterson and Neil McMahon’s Toys (Patterson’s fourth hardback novel of 2011), and Paul Hoffman’s The Last Four Things (the second book in his Left Hand of God trilogy).

Fourteen books with a Royal Wedding theme took more than £5,000 through bookshop tills last week, led by Ladybird's William and Kate: The Royal Wedding and Sunbird's Royal Wedding: Dress-up Dolly Book—both of which took more than £22,000. Other popular Kate/Wills purchases include Daisy Meadows' Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy (Orchard) and Fiona Watt's Sticker Dolly Dressing Weddings (Usborne), while, for an adult audience, Alex & Rory's Will and Kate's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (Simon & Schuster) and Fiona Goble's Knit Your Own Royal Wedding (Ivy Press) proved popular. The biggest Royal Wedding-themed climber in the charts week-on-week was Alisande Healy Orme's Kate Style: Chic and Classic Look (Plexus), which rose 6,700 places.

While Jamie’s 30-minute Meals (Michael Joseph) spends its 31st week at the top of the Top 20 Hardback Non-fiction bestseller list, actress Gwyneth Paltrow becomes the latest celebrity to enjoy “bestseller” status. Her cookbook, Notes from My Kitchen Table (Boxtree), published as My Father's Daughter in the US, débuts in 11th position in the Top 20 Hardback Non-fiction chart.

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Two weeks ago TheBookseller ran the following

"Retailers anticipate "busy" bank holiday double"

There's some that spin, and them that tell it as they see it - congratulations to City Books (Hove) for realistic expectations.

Clive, I wouldn't call optimism "spin". I was hoping for a busy bank holiday double, but I was wrong. Friday was one of our quietist days in modern memory. Pity World Book Night has done bugger all to get the public buying. A shame, I was optimistic about that, too.

It is time to face facts - books belong in the past. Downloading is the name of the game.

What an ignorant pratt. It may be a game as far as you're concerned pleb, but some people are actually interested in the literature.

Why on earth should giving away books boost sales, its simply the last throw of the desperate. If anyone at all in bookselling or publishing had done a business course they would know that marketing is about researching what the customer wants, delivering the expectation to the customer, creating a want/need and then delivering the product, in a timely manner, at a price attractive to the customer and providing a profit to the industry. It is NOT about giveaways.

So what you are saying is that it's just coincidence that sales have been dropping since the big giveaway and that actually sales would have been far far worse had it not been for masses of free books swamping the market. Or is it possible you are the exception to the rule? Or is it also possible you just want to encourage another giveaway next year because you like free books?

It would be nice to see a discussion on these pages that does not descend within hours to sarcasm and snidery. For what it's worth, I think sales have declined because so many people have preferred, understandably enough in the current economic climate, to pay off their credit cards, or to save. If you're whittling down your CC bill by £200 each month, that means £200 you can't spend on fun things.

Of course I like free books. Don't you? What I was trying to say in my initial post is that it encouraged me to buy other books by John le Carre. It would be interesting to know - perhaps someone from Penguin could tell us? - if there was a spike, or a decline, in sales of le Carre backlist that month.

well said Daphne - it is a shame that so many folk are unable to face reality when it is staring them in the face.

Two weeks ago TheBookseller ran the following

"Retailers anticipate "busy" bank holiday double"

There's some that spin, and them that tell it as they see it - congratulations to City Books (Hove) for realistic expectations.

Clive, I wouldn't call optimism "spin". I was hoping for a busy bank holiday double, but I was wrong. Friday was one of our quietist days in modern memory. Pity World Book Night has done bugger all to get the public buying. A shame, I was optimistic about that, too.

Why on earth should giving away books boost sales, its simply the last throw of the desperate. If anyone at all in bookselling or publishing had done a business course they would know that marketing is about researching what the customer wants, delivering the expectation to the customer, creating a want/need and then delivering the product, in a timely manner, at a price attractive to the customer and providing a profit to the industry. It is NOT about giveaways.

So what you are saying is that it's just coincidence that sales have been dropping since the big giveaway and that actually sales would have been far far worse had it not been for masses of free books swamping the market. Or is it possible you are the exception to the rule? Or is it also possible you just want to encourage another giveaway next year because you like free books?

It would be nice to see a discussion on these pages that does not descend within hours to sarcasm and snidery. For what it's worth, I think sales have declined because so many people have preferred, understandably enough in the current economic climate, to pay off their credit cards, or to save. If you're whittling down your CC bill by £200 each month, that means £200 you can't spend on fun things.

Of course I like free books. Don't you? What I was trying to say in my initial post is that it encouraged me to buy other books by John le Carre. It would be interesting to know - perhaps someone from Penguin could tell us? - if there was a spike, or a decline, in sales of le Carre backlist that month.

It is time to face facts - books belong in the past. Downloading is the name of the game.

What an ignorant pratt. It may be a game as far as you're concerned pleb, but some people are actually interested in the literature.

well said Daphne - it is a shame that so many folk are unable to face reality when it is staring them in the face.