Freezing temperatures and a swathe of snow across the UK has hit the high street, with some booksellers seeing sales drop by up to 50%. Shops opened late and closed early, with events cancelled and deliveries arriving late, as arctic conditions set in across the country.
Book sales through Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market dipped 12.3% in volume from the previous week‚ the most dramatic decrease since June 2002‚ to £2.7m. In value terms, sales dipped 11.1% to £20.7m in the seven days to 19th January. High street sales were particularly impacted by the wintry weather, with BookScan's General Retail Market panel of booksellers, which offers a good indicator of high street bookshop performance, reporting sales slumps of 17.5% in revenue terms week on week, to £9.3m.
However, some booksellers reported seeing sales slumps of up to 50%. Matthew Taylor from The Chepstow Bookshop in Monmouthshire, was one. He said: "It is pretty treacherous around here, we have had to cancel our event with Tony Robinson because the school is closed, which is a shame. Deliveries are getting delayed and we have been closing the shop early." Euan Hirst, manager of Blackwell's Broad Street shop in Oxford, said: "On Friday and Saturday we lost about 10% of our sales. It is quiet as there has been a lot of snow, but at least it came now and not before Christmas."
The weather has even had an effect on customers at inner-city London bookshops, with Foyles c.e.o. Sam Husain saying footfall and sales were "noticeably affected" as customers decided to stay at home.
TBS m.d. Mark Williams said conditions had been "challenging", particularly at his Grantham operations, where there were eight inches of snow. "We did plan ahead . . . and we managed to keep our sites open and running," he said. "We ran some vehicles a bit earlier than usual, so they had time to get to their destinations. The key thing was in planning ahead and keeping staff informed."