The supermarket sector was the only winner in the 2010 retail trade, with sales jumping 7% year-on-year.
Estimates based on data from Nielsen BookScan show that book sales in the UK were down by 4% in 2010 in the category of internet, specialist retailers and independent bookstore owners. The plummet equates to an overall drop of roughly £62 million in value for that group.
In effect, the figures indicate rising internet book sales were still not high enough to offset those lost on the high street in stores like Waterstone’s, which reported a decrease in like-for-like sales of 0.4% over Christmas, and W H Smith, whose book sales in the run up to the festive period were down 2% year-on-year from 2009. These figures contrast with the 36% increase in global sales reported by Amazon.com in the fourth quarter of 2010, a hike of $13.95bn.
However, sales at supermarkets and “mixed multiples”, such as high street shops like Mothercare, which also sells books, rose by 7% in 2010, an increase of around £14.9m in value terms.
Phil Carroll, buying manager for Sainsbury’s, said of that £14.9m increase, £10m was Sainsbury’s increased sales. He said: “I’m not surprised that the supermarket figures are up by 7%; we have had increasing sales in books.
“However, I am surprised by the internet results. Predictions I saw 18 months ago suggested internet sales would increase by 5%-6%, and I think if you separate the results out you would probably find the figure going up from minus 4%.
“However, with high street figures slumping it will be pulling the figures down in that group.”
Sales at academic and niche booksellers fell by an estimated 10% over the year, equating to a value drop of around £9.1 million. Across all three categories, sales of books shrunk by an estimated 3%, which was equal to a collective loss of roughly £56m for the industry.
Kate Clavert, retailer analyst with Seymour Pierce, said: “I think there is a general trend of supermarkets taking an increasing share of the non-food spend because they tend to make bigger margins than on food spend. They can also pitch their pricing lower than the high street, which is something they can do economically. Amazon.com is now selling more e-books than paperback books, so their business has shifted too."