Books 'weak' as May sales rise 3.4%, says BRC

Books 'weak' as May sales rise 3.4%, says BRC

The May sunshine led to a 3.4% total sales increase last month, according to the British Retail Consortium, as customers felt a “pent-up demand” to spend after a long period of wet weather. However book sales continued to be "weak", says BRC.

Retail figures released today (7th June) showed that sales values were up by 1.3% like-for-like in May in comparison to a 2.1% decrease the year before, while total sales were up 3.4% against a 0.3% decline in May.

The BRC reported that the late May sun boosted sales of food, drink, clothing and footwear and the sale of online non-food items saw strong growth of 12.4%, higher than last year’s hike of 10.4% in May. However the BRC also noted that book sales still struggled in May in comparison to last year, with the games industry also faltering due to a lack of new releases to stimulate demand in the market.

“Book sales were down on last year, continuing the weak underlying trend,” a statement from the BRC said. 

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, argued that much of the month’s positive performance could be attributed to spending in the final week when consumers responded enthusiastically to the sun.

“It’s likely the prolonged wet period helped create pent-up demand and people also felt more relaxed about their spending as the sun created a feelgood boost,” Robertson said. “Retailers will be hoping the boost continues, sustained by this summer’s celebrations and sporting events.”

However head of retail at KPMG, Helen Dickinson, struck a more cautious note, warning that the recent patriotic Jubilee celebrations would not fundamentally change the underlying pressures faced by high street retailers.

“Retailers are hoping that the Jubilee celebrations will have helped to pull out them of the mire, but a short-term patriotic spending spree will not overcome the underlying difficulties facing the industry - which remains under pressure from a combination of declining consumer confidence and squeezed incomes…Those not selling big-ticket home-related items are hoping the sun stays out all summer long,” she said. 

Nielsen Bookscan Total Consumer Market figures for the three weeks to 26th May show book sales of £64.8m, down 13.8% year-on-year.