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Friday, December 12, 2008

Black October and British book sales

Major British bookstore chain Waterstone's reports that sales are down and getting worse -- and it can't all be blamed on the lack of a Harry Potter miracle.

The bookseller showed an operating loss of 9.3 million pounds for the period, 4.5 percent more than last year's loss of 8.9 million pounds, reflecting "a very challenging book market, which contracted by over 5 percent in the period, impacted particularly by poor performance in the non-fiction category."

Particularly worrying is the company's warning that "the book market has seen a marked deterioration in the five-week period to 29 November." Revenue from sales at high street booksellers (Waterstone's, as well as WH Smith and others) fell 12.7 percent in the single week ending December 6--almost five points worse than the overall decline in sales tracked by Nielsen BookScan.

The Telegraph newspaper noted in a story published yesterday (but no longer available on the internet) that "high street book sales are plummeting as discounting, the growth of internet operators such as Amazon and dwindling consumer spending hits retailers." The basic trouble, however, is the economic downturn.

Everyone in the book trade is crossing their fingers for a big boost in pre-Christmas sales.

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