Strong December boosts high street

Strong December boosts high street

High street chain retailers have been buoyed by successful December trading, The Bookseller can report.

Blackwell’s saw a like-for-like sales increase of 3.38% excluding its London Charing Cross Road store, which closed in June.

Across its promotion and Christmas catalogue titles, sales were up 12.6% in December excluding the Charing Cross Road store and including it, promotion book sales were up 6%. Online sales were also up 15% in December, David Prescott, Blackwell’s c.e.o said. 

What If? Serious Scientific Answers To Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Randall Munroe, John Murray) was our biggest selling book by volume and Germany: Memories of a Nation (by Dr Neil MacGregor, Allen Lane) was our biggest-selling title by value," Prescott said. "We also sold a lot of H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald, Jonathan Cape) Ottolenghi (Hachette) and The Establishment (by Owen Jones, Allen Lane).”

As with Waterstones' report of falling Kindle device sales yesterday (6th January), Blackwell’s  also saw a marked drop in sales of e-reading and tablet devices by Nook this Christmas. 

Prescott said: “The down sides were a reduction in sales of Nook devices - tech sales were disappointing. I imagine Nook sales were down because most people who want an e-reader already have one. E-readers are no longer new to the market so I think that particularly market has reached its peak now, although we did see sales up by 37% on Black Friday, driven by a heavily discounted Nook offer. Changes to the Manchester Metropolitan bursary system also affected us.”

He added: “We have been seeing a growth in sales for some time now, particularly in the shops and online. We have got some very good people working for us. We have a devolved system where managers take full responsibility for what goes on in their shops  and that works well for us.”  

Foyles, meanwhile, saw sales across its six stores up 8.1% like-for-like for the month of December, boosted by its new flagship Charing Cross Road store in London which opened in June and achieved a 14.7% increase on like-for-like sales. 

Its star performer in the estate though was the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall branch in London which saw like-for-like sales increase by 18.2% for the same period. 

Foyles’ top-selling title was Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts) by Russell Norman, followed by We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown) and the Private Eye Annual: 2014. I’s surprise hit was The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide and Eric Selland - a quirky book by previously little-known Japanese author Takashi Hiraide, which became a word-of-mouth hit after a window display at Foyles Waterloo Station earlier in the autumn. 

Foyles’ c.e.o Sam Husain said: "We are very pleased with our figures over the Christmas period, including our new flagship store on Charing Cross Road which saw record sales following the move in the summer. Our latest branch at Waterloo Station, which only opened in February 2014, also performed much better than expected. As print sales seem to be holding steady across the industry, we are looking forward to another good year for the physical book in 2015.”

The Works’ 312 stores also saw a like-for-like increase of 6% for the six weeks to 28th December, which the company said was “record sales” for the fourth consecutive year.

Kevin Keaney, c.e.o of The Works, said: “This is another standout performance for The Works. To deliver record breaking sales for the fourth Christmas in a row, with strong performance across both our store estate and online, is an achievement that we are extremely proud of. By offering great value to our customers as the norm, we’ve also been able to maintain our margins throughout December rather than being forced into heavy discounting before our planned Boxing Day sale kick-off."

Yesterday, Waterstones’ m.d James Daunt revealed that core Christmas sales excluding Kindle e-readers at the chain were up 5% in December.

The overall market in print books according to Nielsen BookScan for the last four weeks of the year, including sales during the week of Christmas (week ending 27th December), was up by 3.7% to  £233.9m, which is almost 17% of the year's total of just under £1.4bn.