Fire and Fury fever grips UK retailers

Fire and Fury fever grips UK retailers

Fire and Fury fever has gripped retailers across the UK as thousands of copies of Michael Wolff's controversial exposé of president Donald Trump finally hit most shop floors yesterday (12th January).

Clement Knox, Waterstones' non fiction buyer, said the chain was selling "many thousands" of copies of Fire and Fury online at Waterstones.com and, despite it "appearing out of the blue" after publication was brought forward by four days last week, he praised UK publisher Little, Brown for managing to get stock to its stores nationwide. He said the chain was expecting "an enormous number of sales" going into the weekend, anticipating Saturday would be "huge".

“It has been a rollercoaster week since the announcement of Fire and Fury’s publication," said Knox. "In that time we have witnessed Twitter storms and threat of legal action from the president of the United States, and unprecedented fascination in a politics book both from the media and the book-buying public. Despite this book appearing out of the blue, we have been able to work closely with the Little, Brown team - who have managed the whole situation brilliantly - to ensure that stock reaches all the shops in the business, as well as selling many thousands online at Waterstones.com.

"We are expecting an enormous number of sales going into the weekend. Saturday should be huge. January is not normally known for producing big politics books and it is great to see customers engage with a big, meaty, controversial book at the same time as they buy their New Year, New You titles."

Independent bookstore Imagined Things' window display

Blackwell's also said it anticipated "strong" sales this weekend, reporting it was selling "hundreds already" across formats. 

The chain's trade buying manager, Katharine Fry, said: "We’ve sold hundreds already in shops and online - and have plenty of stock in place. We are expecting strong sales over the weekend."

She added: "There’s also the additional benefit of an overall uplift in other Trump titles."

Rebecca MacAlister, Oxford area manager at Blackwell’s, agreed early signs pointed to strong sales this weekend, after Blackwell's on Broad Street sold tens of copies within hours of the book going on sale on Wednesday afternoon with customers "not even out of work yet".

"If [Trump] continues to tweet about it, it will continue to be in the news and it will continue to do well,” said MacAlister. "The early signs are encouraging."

Foyles reported its first day sales of the book were "very strong", on and offline, but admitted availability had been "challenging" despite the best efforts of Litte, Brown and wholesalers.

"Fire and Fury mania is in full effect at Foyles," said head of buying, Jasper Sutcliffe. "It's been quite a roller coaster ride over the last 10 days but it's created a huge amount of public interest and has had customers coming in to all our shops and online to get copies.

"The first couple of days of sales have been very strong through our physical shops and online, availability has been challenging but Little Brown/LBS and the wholesalers have been doing a sterling effort in getting stock to us to make sure we make the most of all the publicity."

Foyles' display

W H Smith's trading director for books, Alastair Aldous, said he was "disappointed" by lack of supply of the book earlier on in the week, but said sales were now "starting to really pick up". He anticipated more news coverage this weekend would result in a corresponding bump in sales.

"The lack of supply at the start was disappointing, but sales are starting to really pick up," said Aldous. "We are expecting even more coverage in the papers this weekend, which will spike the sales yet again. Our shops have really shown their entrepreneurial skills with some fantastic displays, to engage with customers."

Many independent bookshops have also been left frustrated by difficulties in getting hold of stock while customers are currently clamouring to read it. 

Kira Gibson, a bookseller at Chorleywood Bookshop, said the store had yet to receive its order. "Sadly we only have one copy as they are so in demand. We have a number of customers waiting," she said on Thursday.

"We are hoping that next week our suppliers will have more but it’s a tad frustrating as we could have been selling lots of the book. A lot of bigger bookshops have had them for a couple of days. I know a lot of other indies that are struggling to get copies, so we are all in the same boat though and luckily our customers are happy to wait."

Newly-opened bookshop Imagined Things in North Yorkshire received 16 copies of the 24 it has already ordered. The shop's owner Georgia Duffy said she had been contemplating ordering more, but was thwarted by stock shortages at wholesalers. The number of copies showing as available at Gardners plummeted from 500 to zero in the space of 20 minutes on Thursday, Duffy said.

"I understand why it’s happened," said Duffy. "Even Amazon are struggling. Its website says customers have to wait 3-5 days for their book."

Haslemere Bookshop's display

Haslemere Bookshop said it had found it "tricky" to get hold of stock, too, but had managed to get copies in on Thursday after checking in with Gardners every couple of hours since its release last Friday. "It took us by surprise," said co-manager Emily Adsett. "We've sold a couple copies of it in store today and had over 10 customers orders for it; for us that's quite a lot. In January, it's just what you need."

A spokesperson for Gardners commented the book was "selling very well" with "thousands being sold and more being ordered by the minute both UK and internationally".

The Bookseller reported on Wednesday (10th January) that Little, Brown is fulfilling 330,000 print orders of the book in the UK and abroad, and by that point had already sold "tens of thousands" of e-books and audiobooks. Fire and Fury's US publisher Macmillan said it had one million print copies on order and had sold "hundreds of thousands" of e-book editions.

The book took off practially overnight after the Guardian leaked some of its contents last Wednesday (3rd January), with other publications rushing to follow. Little, Brown and Macmillan both brought the publication date forward by four days to last Friday after Trump tried to get the title banned, threatening legal action. Waterstones got hold of early stock of the book but sold out quickly. Most retailers had full coverage across stores by Thursday (11th January).

Yesterday (11th January), W F Howes revealed it had bought exclusive rights to sell the audiobook of Fire and Fury into libraries and had been granted the exclusive retail rights for the CD.