Special Bulletin
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18 December 2018

 

Pre-Christmas survey 2018: Sales stable for third year in a row x

Christmas sales are tracking at similar levels to last year for the majority of booksellers (60%), with slightly more stores (21%) reporting an increase in sales than those (19%) reporting a decrease. The results are similar to last year’s, when 65% of booksellers reported similar sales, 14% reported an increase and 22% reported a decrease on the previous year. These results continue the trend of steady pre-Christmas sales we’ve seen in survey results over the past three years.

This year Books+Publishing received feedback from representatives of just over 180 independent, online and chain bookshops around Australia.

The majority of bookstores (80%) reported that sales so far are close to their expectations, which is in line with the sales tracking at similar levels for most stores. Sales are better than expected for 17% of stores surveyed, and just three percent of bookstores are experiencing worse-than-expected sales. This is a welcome reversal of last year’s results, when sales were worse than expected for 13% of stores, and only eight percent of bookstores were selling better than expected.

Of those experiencing better sales than expected, 16% were indies and 17% were chains, while the three percent of stores that experienced worse sales than expected comprised wholly indies and no chain stores.

Overall, booksellers are positive about the Christmas selling season, with many pointing to a strong line-up of new releases bolstering sales. Annie Waters, manager at Adelaide’s Mostly Books, said, ‘With so many amazing titles, the lead-up to Christmas has been very positive so far,’ and Ruth Ellis, a book buyer for bookselling chain WHSmith, commented, ‘Even if you [take] out our new stores, we’re seeing strong growth driven by the strong new releases this year and better stock management practices across our stores.’

Readings managing director Mark Rubbo agreed. ‘We felt that the offering was strong and that with our two renovations our result would be better Christmas than last year, so we expected some growth and so far we are getting it.’

Phillip Schwebel, owner of Collins Booksellers Orange, said sales are exceeding his expectations this year, despite a challenging retail environment. ‘With drought, government changes, uncertainty of the economy I was fearing a downturn, but we started earlier than last year and [are] holding up well,’ he said.

However, several stores are still hoping for a strong finish in the week leading up to Christmas. Dymocks Adelaide owner Mandy Macky noted her store seems a ‘bit quieter’ than last year. ‘[I] expect we are seeing the effect of more online shopping and Black Friday and Cyber Monday,’ she said.

Dymocks general manager Sophie Higgins observed: ‘After a very strong October with some of the best releases we have seen slated for Christmas, November has been more challenging. More and more bricks-and-mortar book sales move into December every year, so we are still expecting a strong finish!’

Other stores noted alternative ways of attracting customers. ‘We do Santa Photos and they do well and we pick up faster than other businesses in town,’ said Josh McPhee, owner of Inverell’s The Dust Jacket bookshop. ‘We’ll always be a destination because we’re a bookstore,’ he said, noting, ‘the drought is a big factor.’

Some respondents that are expecting a slow Christmas period pointed to larger trends over time. A regional NSW bookshop owner said, ‘It’s been a slow year and a slow start to Christmas,’ noting that ‘the collapse of ABC online and the impending end of ABC Centres, along with the end of DVDs, has made a huge impact upon us with our ABC Centre stock.’

A Perth book buyer summarised his shop’s predicament by saying, ‘We knew it was a downturn, yet you’re disappointed by it—but it’s the economic reality,’ while Damian Morgan, owner of Launceston’s Stories Bookshop, observed that, for his store, ‘sales are much worse than they were a decade ago’.

Christmas rush getting ‘later every year’

For the third year in a row, the majority of booksellers (71%) reported a later-than-usual Christmas rush. This figure is up slightly on last year, when 62% reported the rush was later than usual. This year, fewer stores reported that the rush is about the same as last year (24%, down from 31%), and five percent reported the rush is earlier this year (down slightly from six percent).

Christopher Pearce from the Hobart Bookshop summarised many booksellers’ sentiments by saying the rush ‘seems to get later every year’. A Perth-based book buyer said: ‘Sales start to increase (a slow uptake) in November, but “rush” is a generous term. The insanity gets later and later every year, when people have lost their opportunity to buy online.’

Several booksellers pointed to the growing influence of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, with Dymocks general manager Sophie Higgins saying the traditionally American sales are ‘becoming more and more of a phenomenon in Australian retail’. She added: ‘The Christmas rush for bricks-and-mortar stores is likely to continue to peak in the last weeks of December! Support from publishers in continuing to support reprints of key titles and be able to turn around replenishment close to the finish line is crucial.’

Readings’ Mark Rubbo also noted that Black Friday did ‘dampen sales over that weekend and our online sales have been down since then’.

A few Victorian booksellers mentioned the state election slowing down the start of Christmas sales, while in Hobart, the bumping forward of the city’s annual Christmas parade brought the rush forward by about a week, according to Area 52 manager Andrew Schwartz.

One bookseller said their store was ‘losing the rush because of HEDS warehouse issues’, a common complaint about this year’s supply of Christmas stock.

Read more from the survey:

 

Nielsen BookScan: Aus fiction popular; ‘similar’ overall sales shape x

Australian fiction titles are popular with book buyers this Christmas period, with statistics from Nielsen BookScan showing Australian fiction titles high on the bestsellers chart and an increased market share for fiction.

Looking at the overall Australian book market (ABM) in the 10 weeks leading up to 8 December 2018, book sales have a total value of $253.7 million and a volume of 13.5 million copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. However, the value and volume of sales can’t reasonably be compared to last year’s sales totals because BookScan changed the structure of its book sales panel last year to include additional retailers such as the Book Depository, Fishpond and Australian Geographic.

In the same 10-week pre-Christmas period, the market share for the fiction category has increased by 0.4% compared to the same period in 2017, with Australian fiction performing strongly this year. Trade nonfiction is also taking a larger share of the market (up by 0.9%) in the lead-up to Christmas, thanks to a growing interest in topics such as spiritual, mental and financial health. The market share for children’s titles in the 10-week period is down by two percent compared to 2017 figures, returning to a level similar to 2015, prior to the release of J K Rowling titles, which boosted children’s sales significantly in 2016.

(Chart 1 shows the value share of book sales in four categories of the Australian book market.)

‘The lead-up to Christmas this year has seen a similar overall sales shape [to last year], but we haven’t seen the week-on-week growth rates as steep as in previous years,’ said Nielsen Book Pacific general manager Julie Winters.

The statistics on week-on-week growth rates (see Chart 2) also reflect Books+Publishing‘s survey findings this year, where the majority of booksellers reported a later-than-usual Christmas rush, continuing the trend of the past three years.

(Chart 2 shows the change in value sales compared to each previous week in the Australian book market.)

(Chart 3 shows the percentage of value sales for each week during the 10-week period to 8 October 2018. The spike in the last week of 2017 is caused by BookScan’s sales panel change.)

For the top 10 bestsellers in the same 10-week period this year, the average sell price (ASP) is $20.11 (up from $18.47 in 2017). However, when comparing this year’s bestsellers to last year’s, the total volume has fallen by 13% and total value is down by 10%, which is largely due to Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients (Michael Joseph) selling such high volume at a high ASP in 2017.

Four titles by Australian authors, three of which are adult fiction, are on the bestsellers chart in the four weeks to 8 December. Winters said: ‘2018 has been the year of Australian fiction and it’s fantastic to continue to see Aussies high in the BookScan bestseller charts in the lead-up to Christmas. This time last year, the overall top 10 lacked any Australian fiction titles, whilst this year, there are three.’

Top 10 bestsellers for the past four weeks of sales (Australian titles in bold):

  • The Meltdown (Jeff Kinney, Puffin)
  • Past Tense (Lee Child, Bantam)
  • The Ice Monster (David Walliams, HarperCollins)
  • The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, Wiley)
  • Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  • Becoming (Michelle Obama, Viking)
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – The Original Screenplay (J K Rowling, Hachette)
  • The Three Secret Cities (Matthew Reilly, Macmillan)
  • The Lost Man (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  • Guinness World Records 2019 (Guinness World Records).

Read more from the survey:

 

The books: Strong offering led by standout fiction x

Most booksellers are pleased with the books on offer this Christmas, with 75% considering the titles available ‘strong’, and just one percent considering them ‘disappointing’.

The remaining 24% consider the line-up ‘moderate’. Booksellers are slightly more confident in the books than they were last year, when 71% considered the line-up ‘strong’ and 29% considered it ‘moderate’.

‘It feels like a really strong commercial Christmas with lots of strong new releases,’ observed Ruth Ellis, book buyer at WHSmith. ‘Thanks to publisher investment in marketing we’re finding the new releases aren’t eating into each other as much as we expected, but are instead driving strong organic growth across our stores.’

Several booksellers singled out fiction as being especially strong this year—Christopher Pearce from the Hobart Bookshop said it is the ‘best fiction list for years’—but many also emphasised that there are strong sellers across most categories this year. An Adelaide bookshop owner noted that their shop did not have ‘an individual runaway bestseller this year, but at least 20 terrific titles out in front at similar sales levels’.

Mandy Macky, owner of Dymocks Adelaide, said this year offered a ‘very good range of fiction. Great nonfiction too in most genres. Fantastic kids’ books. The only gap we have identified is the range of sports biographies. And we would like more travel biographies, but they are all blogging now!’

Some booksellers also said they were impressed with the range of Australian-authored books on offer. Sophie Higgins, general manager at Dymocks, said: ‘It is a delight to see customers responding to our focus on #readaustralian! With such a strong list of local authors, at one stage in November, nine of the top 10 titles were by Aussie authors.’

One bookseller asserted that the range of books published around December has narrowed. ‘Publishers are very focused on cookery at Christmas, and there’s not such a broad range for an indie … as there used to be,’ said a book buyer at a Perth independent bookshop.

Another complaint from booksellers was that too many key titles are published in the lead-up to Christmas. A Melbourne-based bookshop owner said that this makes it ‘more challenging to maintain stock and manage cashflow’ as an indie store.

Josh McPhee, owner of independent Inverell, NSW bookshop The Dust Jacket, said that while the books on offer this year are ‘fairly decent’, regional bookshops don’t tend to get enough industry support. ‘It’s hard when authors come to schools but don’t let us know. Publishers like what indies do for new authors and hidden gems, but outside of the metro areas they don’t support indie stores.’

Most mentioned titles

Fiction

  • Bridge of Clay (Markus Zusak, Picador)
  • The Lost Man (Jane Harper, Macmillan)
  • Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty, Macmillan)
  • Past Tense: Jack Reacher Book 23 (Lee Child, Bantam)
  • Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate)
  • Milkman (Anna Burns, Faber)
  • Normal People (Sally Rooney, Faber)

Nonfiction

  • Any Ordinary Day (Leigh Sales, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Becoming (Michelle Obama, Viking)
  • Simple (Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury)
  • The Land Before Avocado (Richard Glover, ABC Books)
  • The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape, Wiley)
  • Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Eric Idle, Hachette)
  • Barefoot Investor for Families (Scott Pape, Barefoot Publishing)
  • Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala)
  • Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir (Kerry O’Brien, A&U)

Children’s

Non-book items

Several bookshops said that non-book items contribute significantly to Christmas sales. Bill Concannon, managing director of the Mary Ryan’s chain, observed that ‘non-book product is having a greater impact on sales this year’.

Most mentioned items include cards, jigsaws, puzzles, games, socks, KeepCups, calendars and diaries. A few booksellers mentioned bookseats—reading supports for books, tablets and other devices—with one NSW shop owner assured that bookseats are ‘going to be the thing this Christmas’.

Another shop owner predicted that ‘board games and board game events are where we think the business will be next year’.

Dymocks general manager Sophie Higgins said that the chain’s range and sales of gift and stationary items ‘continues to grow year on year’. She added: ‘At Christmas one of our top sellers is a Santa stress ball! Understandably.’

Interesting one-off mentions include ‘spatulas with goats on them’ and doormats, with manager of Fullers, Hobart, Catherine Schultz, divulging that the shop ‘sold out of doormats’ and had to reorder twice.

Mostly strong response to catalogues

Most bookstores (91%) have a catalogue this year and a little over half (56%) reported a strong response from customers. This is a considerable drop from last year, when 71% reported a strong customer response.

More booksellers (42% up from 26% in 2017) instead reported a moderate response to a catalogue this year, and just two percent described the response as ‘disappointing’.

Readings managing director Mark Rubbo said: ‘I feel the response hasn’t been quite as strong this year despite us distributing many more. But these last few weeks will really tell.’

‘Catalogues are received more warmly in our suburban stores,’ said one book buyer, pointing out that the inner-city indie catalogues complement each other so well that they can be used interchangeably.

Despite this, many stores reported positive responses to their catalogues. A Sydney bookshop owner noted that the ABA’s Kids’ Reading Guide ‘has the best reputation for being an effective resource’.

Manager of Mostly Books in Adelaide, Annie Waters, said: ‘This is the first time we’ve taken the Summer Reading Guide and it’s had a very positive response, I think we’ll definitely do it again next year.’

Read more from the survey:

 

Supply, stock, sales and staffing: HEDS delays felt Australia-wide x

‘A Christmas HEDS will want to forget’

The vast majority of booksellers surveyed reported the delays from Harper Entertainment and Distribution Services (HEDS) as the only major issue with the supply of stock. Apart from that, booksellers are generally happy with the other major distributors, especially United Book Distributors (UBD).

‘I’m sure everyone has mentioned Harper,’ reported WHSmith buyer Ruth Ellis. ‘Other than that issue, I’ve found across the board that suppliers haven’t run out of any key sellers for me—publishers have done a fantastic job of predicting the market this year.’

‘Shocking turnaround from HEDS,’ reported Kate Colley from Bloomin’ Books in Sydney, whose response reflected the feeling of many booksellers across the country. Colley added: ‘We do not always sell blockbusters so even their Hot List is not working for us. School prizes [where books are selected as awards for students] have been a nightmare due to their turnaround times. Lots of lost sales and unhappy customers.’ Colley did note, however, that ‘UBD should get a medal! Low minimum and great turn around!’

Those booksellers who aren’t purely frustrated with the HEDS situation are somewhat sympathetic. One Adelaide bookseller reported: ‘Almost all suppliers and freight companies have performed very well apart from HEDS, whose difficulties are widely known. I sympathise with them,’ while a NSW book buyer reported that HEDS is ‘doing their best to catch up’. Annie Grossman from Annie’s Books on Peregian in QLD said: ‘HarperCollins’ warehouse issues have been annoying, although they have been keeping us informed.’ A NSW bookseller summarised: ‘This will be a Christmas HEDS will want to forget.’

Regional NSW shop owner Josh McPhee from Inverell’s The Dust Jacket said that times are tough and, unfortunately, it’s often easier and cheaper to buy books from local competitors. ‘We will top up from a DDS because of price and convenience. I don’t have to wait, I don’t have to juggle the minimum [orders].’ McPhee added, ‘We don’t order enough, the delay is ours not [the publishers’]’ but a ‘book industry that tends to facilitate department stores is challenging’, especially in remote areas.

Apart from issues with HEDS, booksellers are very happy with the other major suppliers, particularly UBD, which has recently implemented a new online process for returns.

‘Other than [HEDS], it’s pretty good. UBD returns with TNT is new, which is great, the online portal is really handy,’ reported James Redden, manager of Harry Hartog in Canberra. Managing director of Melbourne’s Readings, Mark Rubbo, said: ‘PRH have been magnificent so far with next-day delivery [via UBD]—providing we place orders by 7am. They have set new benchmarks.’

Stock levels up on last year

The majority (54%) of bookshops surveyed are carrying more stock than last year, up from 23% during Christmas 2017. This increase in stock levels appears to be in line with the perceived quality of titles on offer. Annie Waters, manager and buyer at Adelaide’s Mostly Books, reported, ‘I’ve stocked up on titles I don’t want to run out of (which we don’t tend to do as much, as we don’t have any storage space). There also seem to be more key titles this year.’ A NSW-based bookseller agreed: ‘There are so many good ones so you keep reordering.’

A strong emphasis on backlist was also reported by booksellers as being a reason for higher stock levels this year. Graeme Bowden from The Bookshop at Caloundra said, ‘I think our strong backlist range is what is giving us the edge over our competition,’ while another SA bookseller echoed this sentiment, reporting that their shop is ‘purposely investing in greater backlist range’. While 41% of retailers are carrying the same amount of stock as last year, only five percent are carrying less (in 2017, 73% of bookshops reported carrying the same level of stock as the previous year).

Booksellers confident in the value of their product year-round

Fifty-two percent of booksellers do not plan to have a sale of any kind, which is up from 39% in 2017, with many respondents stating definitively, ‘We don’t do sales.’ Booksellers reported rolling sales of discounted or damaged stock throughout the year and a ‘promotion but not a store-wide sale’, while one respondent reported a VIP night in early December, but, again, not a public sale.

Forty-seven percent of booksellers reported that they will have a post-Christmas sale (down from 60% last year), but a few comments reflected that they will do so somewhat reluctantly. ‘We don’t like to do sales, we used to never do them. We’ve had to start doing them because of the expectation, there’s a lot more competition in the marketplace now,’ said Andrew Schwartz from Area 52 in Hobart.

However, many booksellers are confident in the value of their products year-round, with some retailers planning sales for February and Australia Day, ‘to separate from Boxing Day sales’. One NSW bookseller noted the lack of need for public sales: ‘What we’re noticing is that we’re becoming more of an all-year-round destination: European travellers, schoolies, families, students.’

Marginal increases in staffing levels

In 2018, 16% of booksellers reported increased numbers of staff, up from seven percent in 2017. Five percent of survey respondents are operating with fewer staff (similar to last year at six percent), while 79% are operating with the same level of staff, down from last year’s total of 87%. Generally, those who reported increased staffing levels said this was ‘marginal’ and that a ‘higher investment in increased customer assistance’ is integral to the business, especially during December. ‘We have an expectation to provide a higher level of service at Christmas,’ said one Victorian bookseller, while Mandy Macky from Dymocks Adelaide noted, ‘Good customer service experience is the only thing we can offer that is different to [an] online store.’

‘Click and collect’ growing

Sixteen percent of survey respondents are independent bookshops with their own retail website, while 24% are indie bookshops that have a website but don’t sell books through it, and 11% reported having no website at all. The remaining 49% of respondents are franchises who use their company’s online platform.

Many booksellers who don’t currently have an online retail set-up expressed a desire to do so in the future. A number of respondents also reported that, while they don’t have online retailing, their options for customers to reserve books such as ‘click and collect’ works well for them. ‘Click and collect is building strongly. The fact that it’s just available now is good and they can select which store,’ reported Chris Redfern from Melbourne indie chain Avenue Bookstore.

Online print book sales are up in 2018, with 52% of respondents reporting an increase in online sales compared to this time last year. Thirty percent of booksellers reported similar online sales to last year, while only nine percent reported a decrease in online sales; nine percent of respondents did not sell books online in 2017.

The sale of ebooks continues to be insignificant for bricks-and-mortar retailers, with 100% of independent booksellers not selling, and not planning to sell, ebooks.

Read more from the survey:

 

Publishers’ perspectives: Sales up on last year x

Australian publishers are reporting that so far Christmas sales are up compared to this time last year, and most are expecting overall Christmas period sales to be excellent.

Bracing for the sales to come, publishers predict the Christmas rush will come later than last year or about the same time. Like last year, publishers are anticipating a rush on the weekend before Christmas. ‘Tuesday Christmas will mean most people finish work on Friday, 21 December, so the Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be huge shopping days,’ said Affirm Press sales and marketing director Keiran Rogers.

In terms of online sales, print books and ebooks have increased on last year’s sales or stayed the same. Overall, most publishers are expecting Christmas to be excellent or okay.

According to Rogers, Affirm PressThe Nowhere Child by Christian White is a ‘runaway bestseller’ that has propped up the publisher’s 2018 sales, making for a fruitful year, not just Christmas. Other titles selling strongly for the publisher are Black Snake by Leo Kennedy, The Uncollected Plays of Shaun Micallef by Shaun Micallef, and Rod Marsh’s illustrated autobiography. However, Rogers said, ‘Penguin Random House, Pan Macmillan and HarperCollins, and all their huge name authors, seem to be taking the chips this Christmas.’

Earlier this year, Affirm started a children’s list and, according to Rogers, ‘our children’s picture books are doing particularly well’. Regarding online book sales, Rogers said, ‘Booktopia sales are still substantially stronger than that other mob who arrived last Christmas.’ Rogers also noted that Affirm’s distributor Alliance Distribution Services (ADS) is ‘running brilliantly’.

At Allen & Unwin (A&U) sales are up and ‘our sales performance is a reflection of our exceptional publishing program’, according to sales and marketing director Jim Demetriou. Titles selling strongly for A&U include The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly, The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser, Scrublands by Chris Hammer and Kerry O’Brien’s self-titled memoir.

‘The last two weeks of November have been extraordinary for reorders, so I’m expecting a huge December,’ said Hachette sales director Daniel Pilkington. He expects Hachette to do well this Christmas with titles by Stephen Hawking and J K Rowling, Jessica Townsend’s middle-grade novels Nevermoor and Wundersmith, both Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different and Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different, and The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell.

‘This Christmas has been huge for big releases and bookstores are bulging with stock. All the retailers have been working around the clock to process stock and get their reorders in. ADS has also done an incredible job this year keeping up with demand in what will be their busiest Christmas in many years,’ said Pilkington.

Sales in November and December at HarperCollins have been better than expected. CEO James Kellow said sales of new release titles have been strong, and ongoing sales for previously published titles have been ‘very pleasing’—in particular, Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Woman in the Window by A J Finn.

Kellow said: ‘As with last year, the children’s category looks buoyant, led by David Walliams’ The Ice Monster and Matt Stanton’s “Funny Kid” series … Our break-out bestseller for Christmas has been Richard Glover’s witty and nostalgic The Land Before Avocado.’

MidnightSun Publishing CEO and publishing director Anna Solding said Christmas sales are better than expected. Beneath the Mother Tree by D M Cameron is doing well, while picture books, such as Vanishing by Mike Lucas and Jennifer Harrison, are performing best.

Murdoch Books (a division of A&U) has a lifestyle list that is selling right across the range, according to publishing director Lou Johnson. ‘I think consumers are far more thoughtful this year,’ she said. Murdoch expects its strongest-selling titles during Christmas to be Special Guest by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe, From Me to You by Elyse Knowles, Low Tox Life by Alexx Stuart, Meat: The Ultimate Companion by Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers, and Girl’s Guide to Kicking Goals by Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw.

One of Penguin Random House’s strongest performing titles is The Meltdown: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, which is unsurprising, as it has been number one on Nielsen BookScan’s top 10 bestseller chart for the past five weeks. Sales and operations director Gavin Schwarcz said the publisher is doing well across the board. Other strong sellers include Past Tense by Lee Child, Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh, and Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales. Schwarcz said sales are close to expectations and are about the same as last year.

In the weeks before Christmas, Text Publishing is doing about the same last year, according to publisher Michael Heyward. The strongest sellers from Text are Europe: A Natural History by Tim Flannery, You Daughters of Freedom by Clare Wright, Preservation by Jock Serong, The Fragments by Toni Jordan, Books That Saved My Life by Michael McGirr, A Winter’s Promise: The Mirror Visitor Book One by Christelle Dabos, Flames by Robbie Arnott, and Kill Shot by Garry Disher.

Read more from the survey:

 

Booksellers optimistic x

Twenty-four percent of booksellers are expecting sales to be ‘excellent’ this Christmas, double the number who had high expectations for the same time last year (12%). Most respondents, however, are cautiously awaiting the outcome of the Christmas rush, with 75% predicting sales to be ‘okay’ (down from 81% in 2017). On a positive note, just one percent of booksellers predict Christmas to be ‘disappointing’ sales-wise, down from six percent last year.

One NSW bookseller said Christmas ‘needs to be great to make up for a terrible year and to pay our mounting overdue accounts’, while a WA-based bookseller commented, ‘We’re just hoping we can stay within that 5% of last year—WA is not in very bright shape at the moment.’

Those who are predicting ‘excellent’ sales generally seem to have been experiencing growth all year long: ‘We have been consistently up all year, and with the great titles out this Christmas it feels very busy and positive,’ reported Annie Waters from Mostly Books in Adelaide. Another SA bookseller expects sales to be excellent but tempered their optimism with a caveat: ‘Present indications are in line, but much can happen over the next 13 busiest days.’

One year on from the launch of Amazon Australia, booksellers seem to have recovered some optimism about the book industry, compared to comments in last year’s survey. One Perth bookseller expressed concerns about the new retail landscape, but added, ‘The big advantage we have in WA, which is a double-edged sword, is that we’re miles away from anything so even if [customers] order online, it’ll take just about as long to get here. The last big issue is time, if people can get a book the next day in WA it would change everything.’

Overall, booksellers seem to be focusing on the positive aspects of the book business. James Redden, manager of Harry Hartog in Canberra, said he’s ‘really happy with how things are performing despite the negative things being reported’, and Alan Sheardown, owner of Crow Books and New Edition in Perth, said, ‘I’m pretty upbeat about it, the books are good, customers seem to be buying.’

Becky Lucas from Shakespeare’s Bookshop in Blackwood, SA, said she is ‘very, very happy with how things are going’ and a NSW bookseller enthused, ‘It’s an exciting time of year, best job in the world!’

Read more from the survey:

 
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