The Lead Story Christmas

Analysts back books to outperform retail market as shops prep festive promotions

Te relatively modest price point of books suggests the sector could perform solidly this Christmas, analysts predict, with booksellers hailing a strong line-up across the board

Te Bookseller news team @thebookseller D

espite the challenges to the high street and potential knocks to consumer confidence amid the pre-Brexit

turmoil, books are likely to do beter this Christmas than other retail industries, analysts say. Meanwhile, retailers are optimis- tic, praising a “strong” Christmas line-up. Nielsen BookScan’s TCM figures suggest the festive season may be finely balanced: in the past four weeks (23rd September to 20th October) 13.9 million books were sold for £130.25m, 2.5% down in volume and 1.8% down in value against the same period in 2017. For the year to date, the print market is now just 0.25% ahead of 2017 in volume terms, and 1.6% ahead in value (for the period up to 20th October).

However, last autumn figures dragged behind before spiking in the week before Christmas, a surge which ensured the print book market maintained its run of value growth year on year—albeit by a slender 0.1%. Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis is hopeful that publishing will see a solid end to the year. “I would expect books will outper- form a reasonable Christmas period for retail overall—neither blockbuster, nor disaster,” he said. “Retail is having a difficult time, but it is also a mixed picture. Department stores and fashion has had a poor year, some supermarkets have had a beter time. Books as a category have held up well.”

McCabe identified key economic drivers for the Christmas market: “Slowdown in the propert market, combined with uncertaint relating to Brexit (which is negative), partially offset by a reasonably healthy job market and marginally improved salary positions (a positive).” He predicted: “On the basis of the above

06 26th October 2018

Tere may not be an obvious blockbuster... but a wide range of mid- to good-selling titles can make for a strong Christmas for bookshops Douglas McCabe, Enders Analysis

drivers, household spend should be reasonable and steady, but it will tend towards relatively low price-point items, and books have likely gained market share in this space. Second, the publishing programme is good qualit, with a wide range of interesting looking books. There may not be an obvious blockbuster to anchor the Christmas season, but that can also be a good thing—a wide range of mid- to good-selling titles can make

for a strong Christmas for bookshops, chain and independent.” Retailers also foresee a range Christmas.

Waterstones buying director Kate Skipper said: “It’s a strong Christmas line-up so we’re feeling buoyed by this year’s publishing as we enter the final months of the year. Fiction is looking nicely robust, with excellent titles across the spectrum, including the big brands—such as Ian Rankin, Lee Child, C J Sansom, Robert Galbraith, George R R Martin etc—as well as an exciting range of books from emerging and literary authors. These include Normal People by Sally Rooney, Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, Melmoth by Sarah Perry, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, Circe by Madeleine Miller and Milkman by Anna Burns.” Blackwell’s sales and marketing director Dean Drew echoed the importance of the offering’s breadth. “Publishing in general


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