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Book Market 2020: Second shutdown weighs heavily on book trade’s year-end results

Revenue decline of 2.3 per cent across central sales channels, Business in physical bookstores closes the year with a minus of 8.7 per cent / 14th December had the highest sales, two days before renewed store closures
Erstellt am 07.01.2021


The book industry is looking back on a challenging year. While the book trade was able to reduce its sales revenue shortfall resulting from the shutdown in the spring from month to month, the renewed store closures in mid-December, traditionally the period with the highest revenues, has resulted in a negative overall result for the year. Consequently, turnover in 2020 across the central sales channels (retail bookstores, ecommerce incl. Amazon, railway station bookstores, department stores, electrical goods stores and drugstores) was 2.3 percent below the previous year's figure. The business from physical bookstores, which was particularly affected by the Corona measures, closed the year with a minus of 8.7 percent. This can be seen in the market data report “Branchen-Monitor BUCH”, which was published today.

"The COVID year 2020 has clearly hit the book industry hard. It is true that books have played a prominent role for people during the crisis: enthusiasm for reading has been high and demand for books was strong for most of the year. However, the shutdown in December threw a spanner in the works for the industry. The renewed store closures in the middle of the Christmas business put an end to the race to make up for the losses caused by the shutdown in the spring; a race which the book industry had almost won," says Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, Chairwoman of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers & Booksellers Association).

In view of the extension of the shutdown announced on Tuesday, the book industry is facing another difficult year. "Due to the continued store closures, we will start the year with a massive minus,” says Karin Schmidt-Friderichs. “The prospects for publishers and bookstores are uncertain. However, we will do everything we can to continue to reliably supply people with books. Bookstores and publishers have proven to be committed, creative and in touch with customers during the crisis. Most bookstores now offer contactless pickup of ordered books during the closures. Now that Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are also providing this option, Saxony is the only state that is not allowing contactless pickup. We urge the government of Saxony to soon follow suit. This pick-up service is indispensable in helping bookstores alleviate the damage caused by the closures.”

Since stores reopened after the first shutdown, the book trade has been able to reduce its revenue shortfall across all sales channels from minus 14.9 per cent (mid-April) to minus 0.3 per cent (mid-December). The purely physical store business improved from minus 21.1 per cent in mid-April to minus 4.5 per cent in mid-December. Christmas trading was above average until the second shutdown, with weekly year-on-year turnover increases of up to 25 per cent. The strongest sales day of 2020 was December 14th, two days before the renewed store closures. On this day, almost 60 per cent more turnover was reached in the book trade across all sales channels, and in the physical stores even almost 70 per cent more than in 2019.

Children's and Young Adults' books were the only product group to achieve a significant growth of 4.7 per cent across all sales channels compared to the previous year. The biggest decline was in travel literature at 26.1 per cent. The most important product group, fiction, closed with a slight minus of 1.6 per cent, while non-fiction had a minus of 1.3 per cent.

According to Media Control, the best-selling novel in 2020 (hardcover fiction) was, as in 2019, a title by Sebastian Fitzek: this time "Der Heimweg". Second place went to "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens, and third place to Ken Follett's "Kingsbridge - The Evening and the Morning". Among the non-fiction bestseller titles (hardcover), "A Promised Land" by former US President Barack Obama took first place. Ferdinand Schirach and Alexander Kluge were in second place with "Trotzdem" while "Unsere Welt neu denken" by Maja Göpel reached third place.

The data published for the sales channels of the retail bookstores, ecommerce incl. Amazon, railway station bookstores, department stores as well as electrical goods stores and drugstores offer an initial trend indication for the development of the book market in 2020. Complete book market figures, which include all other sales channels (direct from publishers, mail order book trade, other sales outlets, book clubs) as well as the figures for books sold with payment by invoice, will be available in summer 2021.

The “Branchen-Monitor BUCH” is published monthly by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. It is based on data from the Media Control retail panel.


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