Indies report dip in Easter trade as hot weather hits footfall

Indies report dip in Easter trade as hot weather hits footfall

The sunny weather hit Easter weekend trading for bookshops with some struggling to shift copies, bucking the general trend after research showed High Street footfall actually increased. 

The blazing weather and later Easter date this year meant there was a lack of the payday boost which accompanied the holiday in 2018, when Easter Sunday was on 1st April instead of 21st April this year. However a few bookshops, particularly those in tourist towns, received a spike in sales.

The print market dropped 6.4% in value and 4.8% in volume week on week, to 3.1 million books sold for £25.3m, according to Nielsen BookScan. This is in marked contrast to the year on year figures which continue to soar against spring 2018, with a 13.7% rise in value and 16.8% jump in volume.

Retail Sector reported footfall increased by 6.5% on Friday, 1.2% on Saturday and 8.4% by 12pm on Easter Monday, as a result of the hot and sunny weather. The result is a “clear contrast” to Easter 2018, when poor weather resulted in footfall declining by 2.4% on Good Friday, 3% on Easter Saturday and 9.8% by 12pm on Easter Monday, according to retail intelligence firm Springboard.

Button & Bear Children’s Bookshop in Shrewesbury was one of the many that struggled with the warm weather. “We were down around 8% year on year as we lost out to the bank holiday sunshine,” owner Louise Chadwick said. “We are optimistic with a break in weather forecast and pay-day for many coming up.” 

However a recent relaunch saw proved popular for events. “We had several story and rhyme sessions which were sold out based on the relaunched Poppy & Sam, some of the That's Not My.... Chick & Bunny along with picture book Hop Little Bunnies,” she said.

Sarah Shaw, manager of the Book Case in Hebden Bridge, agreed that the warm weather had distracted customers from book-buying. “Generally down if it’s really hot because people want to be in the sun. We were 10% down for Easter overall, although for Monday specifically we were 50% up compared to that day last year.” (Shaw believes that heavy snow on Easter Monday in 2018 might have skewed the figures.)

“Because Easter was at the end of the month last year we had a bumper weekend after payday. It’s often a very quiet time of year. Footfall is normally lower in small towns over Easter because lots of the shops are closed.”

Co-founder of Burley Fisher Books, Sam Fisher, echoed this. Sales for the east London-based store were slightly down on last year over the weekend “which I would put down to the weather”.

Mr B’s Emporium in Bath also suffered from the weather except for Good Friday which drew in the crowds. “Saturday and Monday were a little sluggish because of the summer sun in terms of footfall,” co-owner Nic Bottomleysaid “[This is] inevitable when it’s so splendid all of a sudden. It’s always the same the first few days of any major weather period in my experience.”

Melanie Greenwood, co-owner of Drake’s – The Bookshop in Stockton, said that many would-be customers had fled to the seaside to catch the sun. “Stockton is not a destination place and because we’re near the coast, lots of people go there. Saturday was ok but not one of busiest Saturdays.”  

But a few shops enjoyed stronger sales than last year. The Edinburgh Bookshop was £400 up for the week overall, a 6% increase on 2018. Sales assistant Olivia Kekewich said: “I think a lot of parents were coming in to buy books. With Easter being later this year, a lot of people had come back from their holidays.”

Bookish in Crickhowell in Powys, Wales was 9.5% up on the period last year. Owner Emma Corfield-Walters said: “We were up because more people know we’re here and we’re in a tourist hotspot, we’d only been here for a year before and we’ve had a lot of publicity [including the Shop Local scheme which saw the store featured in Visa’s adverts over Christmas]. We have a café as well which draws people in.” 

The Highland Bookshop's manager Sarah-Louise Bamblett also revealed a strong Easter weekend, almost two years after the store opened in Fort William, Scotland. Although some of the weekedn were quiet because of the heat, she said, overall the store was 35% up for the five day period compared to 2018.

Analyst Joseph Evans, of Enders Analysis, said that Easter 2018 was a difficult year to compete with for various reasons.

“The weather is always an important element in retail, with hot, sunny weather boosting overall sales figures," he told The Bookseller. "But it affects different categories in different ways, while time and budget constraints mean that the good-weather spending can substitute for other purchases – in short, if you’re buying more beer and burgers, you might be buying fewer books.

“Looking at total retail sales, even if the good weather continues, it’s going to be difficult to compete with last year, when a royal wedding followed by the World Cup drove heavy consumption.”

However he believes that the gaps could prove useful later down the line. "Then again, maybe the lack of these national pastimes will leave people with more time to read over the next couple of months."