Special Bulletin
22 January 2016

Post-Christmas survey: sales up for 90% of booksellers, 71% of indies x

Ninety percent of booksellers have reported an increase in sales in Christmas 2015, including 71% of indies, according to the results of Books+Publishing’s annual post-Christmas survey.

This compares to Christmas 2014, when 50% of booksellers reported an increase in sales, and Christmas 2013, when 69% reported an increase.

Books+Publishing received feedback from representatives of close to 150 bookshops around Australia for its annual post-Christmas survey. Overall, six percent of booksellers reported a decrease in sales and four percent a plateau. Among indies, 22% saw a drop and seven percent a plateau.

Eighty percent of all booksellers said sales were better than expected, 17% said they were close to expectations and 3% said they were worse than expected. However, indies were more disappointed with sales than chain stores; just 39% of indies said sales met their expectations, 49% said sales were close to expectations, and 12% said they were worse than expected.

‘With a third year of growth for the Dymocks network it was very exciting to see some stores in the network achieve record sales days in the lead-up to December 25,’ said head of marketing and merchandise Sophie Higgins. ‘If there was any doubt that “books are back” I think the sales and foot traffic of Christmas 2015 put that to bed.’

Many indies also commented on the strong finish to December. ‘We had a good November, followed by a solid start to December, building up to our best Christmas trade ever,’ said Avenue Bookshop owner Chris Redfern, while Suzie Bull from Farrell’s Bookshop said ‘the month of December was extremely busy, with many customers leaving with a wide range of books for Christmas’.

Publishers can rest easy when it comes to returns. The majority of booksellers (53%) are expecting returns to be lower than last year, 36% are expecting returns to be about the same, and just 11% are expecting higher returns.

Related stories

Nielsen BookScan Christmas figures: value and volume up
The books: ‘Freaking colouring books!’
Publishers’ perspectives

 

Nielsen BookScan Christmas figures: value and volume up x

Local booksellers experienced a boost in sales over the Christmas period thanks to the continued success of adult colouring books. According to Nielsen BookScan, sales were up 1.8% in volume and 5% in value in the 13 weeks to 26 December 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. However, when adult colouring books were taken out of the mix, volume was down 7% and value was down 1.4%.

Sales were slightly better over the final four weeks to 26 December, with volume up 3% and value up 5.1%, while the average selling price (ASP) for this period was $18.95, up from last year’s ASP of $18.60.

Adult nonfiction, which includes adult colouring books, was the strongest performing category, up 19.4% in volume and 11.5% in value over the four-week period. Fiction fell 5% in volume and 3.6% in value, while children’s books, a strong performer last year, fell 6% in volume but remained steady (up 0.3%) in value.

The top-selling titles in the four weeks before Christmas were:

Overall

  • Old School: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney, Puffin)
  • Everyday Super Food (Jamie Oliver, Michael Joseph)
  • Guinness World Records 2016 (Guinness World Records)
  • Millie Marotta’s Tropical Wonderland (Mille Marotta, Batsford)
  • Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom (Millie Marotta, Batsford)

Fiction

  • The Dressmaker (Rosalie Ham, Duffy & Snellgrove)
  • The Lake House (Kate Morton, A&U)
  • Rain Music (Di Morrissey, Macmillan)
  • Spirits of the Ghan (Judy Nunn, William Heinemann)
  • Rogue Lawyer (John Grisham, Hachette)

Nonfiction

  • Everyday Super Food (Jamie Oliver, Michael Joseph)
  • Guinness World Records 2016 (Guinness World Records)
  • Millie Marotta’s Tropical Wonderland (Mille Marotta, Batsford)
  • Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom (Millie Marotta, Batsford)
  • Fromelles and Pozieres: In the Trenches of Hell (Peter FitzSimons, William Heinemann)

Children’s

  • Old School: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney, Puffin)
  • The 65-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan)
  • Grandpa’s Great Escape (David Walliams, HarperCollins)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated edition (J K Rowling, Bloomsbury)
  • The 13-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan).
 

The books: ‘Freaking colouring books!’ x

While only one narrative nonfiction title made Nielsen BookScan’s nonfiction bestsellers chart, a number of local titles were among the most-mentioned by booksellers: Kerry O’Brien’s Keating (A&U), memoirs from Magda Szubanski and Tim Winton, and Adam Spencer’s World of Numbers (Xoum).

The perennial nonfiction bestsellers, Jamie Oliver and Guinness World Records, were only mentioned by a handful of booksellers, although a large number did note the continued popularity of adult colouring books.

The most-mentioned fiction titles were a mix of local, predominantly female, authors. These included The Dressmaker (Rosalie Ham, Duffy & Snellgrove) and The Lake House (Kate Morton, A&U), which made it into Nielsen BookScan’s fiction bestsellers chart, as well as international titles Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (Fourth Estate) and Elena Ferrante’s ‘Neapolitan novels’ series (Text).

The overall bestseller, Jeff Kinney’s Old School: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Puffin), was also the most-mentioned title by booksellers. Also among the most-mentioned in the children’s category were Andy Griffith’s The 65-Storey Treehouse (Pan) and David Walliam’s Grandpa’s Great Escape (HarperCollins). 

The surprise leftover for many booksellers was Gregory David Roberts’ Mountain Shadow (Picador), the follow-up to the bestselling Shantaram. ‘With an obscure jacket and little author promotion it seems that even follow-ups to massive blockbuster bestsellers can’t be taken for granted!’ said Dymocks head of marketing and merchandise Sophie Higgins. A number of others noted that adult colouring book sales had tapered off, although not fast enough for one bookseller: ‘Freaking colouring books! When will the madness end?’ Other surprise leftovers for several booksellers were Peter Garrett’s Big Blue Sky (A&U) and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (Fourth Estate).

Overall

  • Old School: Diary of Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney, Puffin)
  • All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr, HarperCollins)
  • Keating (Kerry O’Brien, A&U)
  • The 65-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, Pan)
  • ‘The Neapolitan Novels’ (Elena Ferrante, Text)
  • The Secret Chord (Geraldine Brooks, Hachette)

Fiction

  • All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr, HarperCollins)
  • My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante, Text)
  • The Secret Chord (Geraldine Brooks, Hachette)
  • The Lake House (Kate Morton, A&U)
  • The Dressmaker (Rosalie Ham, Duffy & Snellgrove)

Nonfiction

  • Keating (Kerry O’Brien, A&U)
  • Reckoning (Magda Szubanski, Text)
  • Adam Spencer’s World of Numbers (Xoum)
  • Island Home (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Various adult colouring books

Children’s

  • Old School: Diary of Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney, Puffin)
  • The 65-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, Pan)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated edition (J K Rowling, Bloomsbury)
  • Grandpa’s Great Escape (David Walliams, HarperCollins)
 

Publishers’ perspectives x

Christmas sales were up in 2015 for more than two thirds of the major publishers, and ‘about the same’ for the remaining third. Approximately half of the major publishers said sales were ‘better than expected’ and another half said sales were ‘close to expectations’.

The results were a little more mixed for smaller publishers, with some reporting an increase in Christmas sales and others a decrease.

Simon & Schuster managing director Dan Ruffino said it was ‘arguably the healthiest Christmas in the last five years’. ‘A great spread of sellers. Not overly reliant on just one or two books,’ he said. This sentiment was echoed by Dennis Jones, director of Dennis Jones & Associates, who said sales ‘took us back to days of REDgroup turnover’.

Several publishers noted a last-minute boost in sales. ‘There was an uncharacteristic surge in customer orders in the five days leading up to Christmas which helped drive our December sales above last year,’ said Allen & Unwin group sales and marketing director Jim Demetriou. ‘The surge came later than expected, but when it came it was great,’ said a mid-sized publisher.

Interestingly, ebook sales appeared to hold up fairly well over Christmas, with ebook sales ranging from 15% to 20% of overall sales for the major publishers.

‘Australian memoir and autobiography performed really well for us this year,’ said HarperCollins CEO James Kellow. ‘Also children’s books sales—thanks to David Walliams—were very strong, and adult colouring-in, in particular Millie Marotta, was sensational.’ Tim Cahill’s autobiography Legacy, Donna Hay’s Life in Balance and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See were also among HarperCollins’ Christmas bestsellers.

‘Christmas 2015 was one of the strongest lists we have had for some time with blockbuster titles in nonfiction,’ said A&U’s Jim Demetriou. These included books by Kerry O’Brien, Peter Garrett, Chris Judd and Amanda Keller. In fiction, books by Kate Morton, Michael Connelly, Charlotte Wood and Marlon James performed well, and in children’s, the bestsellers were Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated edition (J K Rowling), Illuminae (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff) and Zeroes (Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti).

Penguin Random House recorded strong sales in adult fiction and nonfiction. Its bestsellers included Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School (Jeff Kinney), Jamie’s Everyday Super Food (Jamie Oliver), Fromelles and Pozieres: In the Trenches of Hell (Peter FitzSimons), Lost Ocean (Johanna Basford) and Spirits of the Ghan (Judy Nunn).

‘Big brand fiction’ and colouring books sold well for Hachette. These included Rogue Lawyer (John Grisham), The Secret Chord (Geraldine Brooks), The Girl in the Spider’s Web (David Lagercrantz), Secret Paris (Zoe de Las Cases) and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (Stephen King).

Children’s and lifestyle books were the best-performing categories for Pan Macmillan, with the strongest sales coming from The 65-Story Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton), Guinness World Records 2016, Rain Music (Di Morrissey), The Mindfulness Colouring Book (Emma Farrarons) and Phillip Hughes: The Official Biography (Malcolm Knox & Peter Lalor).

S&S continues to have success with celebrity memoirs. Its Christmas bestsellers included Strong Looks Better Naked (Khloe Kardashian), The Japanese Lover (Isabelle Allende), Binge (Tyler Oakley), Dork Diaries 10: Puppy Love (Rachel Renee Russell) and the Kaboom Kid Box Set (David Warner).

Text recorded its best sales in memoir and literary fiction, in particular, Reckoning (Magda Szubanski), the ‘Neapolitan Novels’ (Elena Ferrante) and The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion).

Dennis Jones’ bestsellers were Moroccan Soup Bar (Hana Assafiri), The Grade Cricketer and Money & Mindfulness (Lisa Messenger); while Bolinda’s bestselling audiobooks were The Dressmaker (read by Rachel Griffiths), Reckoning (read by Magda Szubanksi) and Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s Treehouse Gift Pack (read by Stig Wemyss).

 

 

 

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