High street welcomes 'range' Christmas

High street welcomes 'range' Christmas

Booksellers say they are set for a "range Christmas", predicting that it will benefit the high street.

This year's Christmas titles have not yet thrown up one "phenomenon" book like last year's Jamie ­Oliver's 30-minute Meals, but instead are offering customers a wide variety of contenders across all genres, encouraging readers and present-buyers into stores to browse where they might otherwise have shopped online.

Waterstone's managing director James Daunt told The Bookseller: "For a range bookseller like us, the fact that there isn't any stand-out title is excellent. It isn't a case of one or two titles that suck everything up, there is a real breadth and range of books. There are a lot of great titles out there."

Vivian Archer, from Newham Bookshop in London, agreed that a range Christmas was in play, benefiting independents. "If there are a couple of massive bestsellers and campaigns then the supermarkets tend to be able to discount and to dominate," she said. "All Dickens—including the Claire Tomalin book—are selling well, and I put that down to the Dickens bicentenary next year. Lee Evans, Brian Cox and some classics are also doing well for us."

Brett Croft, manager of Daunt's in Marylebone, London, said: "I think it's a Christmas where you can make good bookselling count. There are pretty varied and rich lists, with an author for everybody, that a good bookseller should be able to allocate to grandma, uncle, cousin, and so on. I think it's certainly a bit of a reaction to a lot of publishers realising that if there is a point to a physical book, it must be beautiful, thought-provoking, engaging, and it must repay the effort of browsing." 

Sam Husain, c.e.o. of Foyles, pointed out that range benefits the high street because "we offer browsing as a form of entertainment, and that is not as easy to do sitting behind a desk".

Figures from Nielsen BookScan reveal sales of the top 100 new printed titles in the four  weeks to 26th November were down 25% year on year (to £24.6m), while sales of books outside the top 100 were down a much shallower 8%, to £117.6m. In addition, the proportion of total book sales in November last year that came from the top 100 new books was 20%—a figure that has fallen to 17% in 2011. 

W H Smith books business unit director Rachel Russell said: "The lead publishing this year is very male. Christmas publishing always ­benefits from a strong female bias, hence the strong ranking of titles such as Downton Abbey, Bake Off and Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy, which would not normally feature in such a strong position."

While figures suggest Christmas has just started—with printed book sales soaring by £5.5m week on week last week—Russell said: "The TCM results shows that Christmas is very late. We have a full week to Saturday this year, which will change the shape of shopping."

Most retailers agree Christmas is still all to play for, with Phil Edwards, Gardners senior buying manager, saying: "Every time we look at Nielsen, it look as if someone has shaken up the snow globe. Everyone has moved around, up and down."