The book trade’s TCM sales showed another big year on year drop last week, but the regional breakdown of the Nielsen BookScan figures suggests the nationwide riots were unlikely to be the major factor, despite the scenes of violence and looting that dominated the headlines.
Sales in the seven days to 13th August stood at £26,560,108, down 9% on 2010’s equivalent week and 4% down on the previous seven days. However sales in London, where the rioting started, were down 7%, a performance only marginally poorer than in the south-west region (-5%), which was unaffected by the unrest.
Nielsen’s Lancashire region, which includes riot-hit Liverpool and Manchester, also saw a 5% drop in sales, equal to that of the peaceful south-west region. The drop was slanted towards fiction rather than non-fiction sales, suggesting that e-reading rather than rioting is taking its toll on print totals, with the holiday season now at its peak.
Although high street footfall was clearly depressed by the unrest—with some branches of Waterstone’s and W H Smith closing for safety reasons during the violence—bookshops in general remained remarkably unaffected by the looting that hit a broad swathe of retailers dealing with everything from high-end electrical goods to the humble pound shop.
Gay’s the Word bookshop in London’s Marchmont Street suffered a broken window, but there were no other violent incidents. At a shopping precinct at Clapham Junction, Waterstone’s was the only shop to escape unscathed.
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