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September sales up on August, down on 2010
06.10.11 | Philip Stone
Printed book sales in September rose by 10% on August, but were down 10% on last year, Nielsen BookScan data reveals. In total, £118.4m was spent on physical books in the four weeks to 1st October, an increase of £11m on August, but a decline of £14m on September 2010.
According to an analysis of BookScan TCM Top 5,000 data for the period, which accounted for 55% of all book sales, hardback sales in September were significantly down on 2010 levels—by 35% in the fiction sector and 30% in non-fiction. Guinness World Records 2012 (39,814 copies sold) and Lee Child's The Affair (Bantam Press, 31,017 copies sold) were the only two hardback titles to sell more than 30,000 copies in the month of September this year, Child managing the feat in just three days. However, 10 titles achieved the feat in September last year, led by Tony Blair's A Journey (Hutchinson) with sales of 109,775 copies.
Stephen Fry's The Fry Chronicles (Michael Joseph), Nigella Lawson's Kitchen (Chatto), Paul O'Grady's The Devil Rides Out (Bantam Press) and Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight (Doubleday) also all sold more than 50,000 copies in September last year, suggesting that in 2010, shoppers began their Christmas shopping early, perhaps in part because the high-profile release of Blair's A Journey increased bookshop footfall.
Hurt by the migration to digital, paperback fiction sales through the TCM Top 5,000 were down 15% year-on-year last month, although paperback non-fiction and children's sales out-performed the overall market, with sales down 4% and up 3% respectively.
Meanwhile, after a poor first half of the year, sales within the specialist non-fiction/academic sector have improved, and were up 1.5% for the month.
Helped by the popularity of Jessicca Fellowes' The World of Downton Abbey (Collins), the Film & TV sector was one of few sectors to enjoy stronger sales year-on-year. Other sectors in growth include Humour (thanks to strong sales for Karl Pilkington's An Idiot Abroad (Canongate) and Peter Kay's The Book That's More Than Just a Book Book (Hodder)), and History—due to strong sales of Bill Bryson's At Home (Black Swan), Sinclair McKay's The Secret Life of Bletchley Park (Aurum), Simon Jenkins' A Short History of England (Profile), and the first part of Peter Ackroyd's epic history of England, Foundation (Macmillan).
Conversely, sales within the Mind, Body and Spirit, Biographies & Memoirs, Food & Drink and Popular Science sectors were down heavily on 2010 levels.
Although the migration from print to digital can be partly blamed for poor physical book sales year-on-year, booksellers were not the only retail sector suffering a September sales slump. Almost 40% of retailers that contributed to the CBI's recent Distributive Trades Survey reported that sales in the month of September were below last year, while figures from footfall monitors Experian revealed that footfall fell 8.1% year-on-year in the week commencing 26th September—the biggest fall since December 2008. Fashion and footwear retailers in particular suffered badly, with sales falling to their lowest level in more than two and a half years, Drapers magazine reports, as shoppers shunned the shops in favour of enjoying the recent mini heat wave.
Super Thursday somewhat insulated the book trade against the heatwave, with sales rising 8.6% last week, although sales were down 11.2% on an even bigger Super Thursday week last year.
September Top 10:
1) David Nicholls' One Day: film tie-in edition (Hodder) 85,098
2) David Nicholls' One Day (Hodder) 80,309
3) Jeffrey Archer's Only Time Will Tell (Pan) 57,436
4) James Patterson and Liza Marklund's Postcard Killers (Arrow) 50,023
5) Lee Child's Worth Dying For (Bantam) 47,621
6) Dawn French's A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Penguin) 44,356
7) C J Sansom's Heartstone (Pan) 43,015
8) Andy McNab's Zero Hour (Corgi) 42,530
9) Guinness World Records (Guinness) 39,814
10) John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: film tie-in edition (Sceptre) 38,985