For the third year in a row, Christmas sales were ‘about the same’ for the majority of booksellers (80%) and this was also close to what the majority (81%) had expected anyway, according to the results of Books+Publishing’s annual post-Christmas survey.
Overall sales results were similar to last year’s post-Christmas survey, with just 16% of booksellers reporting a jump in sales (compared to 19% last year), and 4% reporting a sales drop (compared to 12% in the previous year). The three years of flat sales come after a strong 2015 Christmas selling season, in which sales were up for 90% of booksellers.
Books+Publishing received feedback from representatives of over 100 bookshops around Australia for its annual post-Christmas survey. The response from many booksellers matched the optimism of booksellers that was reported prior to Christmas, in which many pointed to a strong line-up of new releases bolstering sales.
For the majority of booksellers (74%), the Christmas rush was later than last year. ‘Our growth only came in the last few days,’ reported Linda Tassone, owner of Melbourne’s Jeffreys Books, while Readings managing director Mark Rubbo noted that ‘Black Friday had detrimental impact.’
Dymocks general manager Sophie Higgins said, ‘November was very challenging, but as hoped, sales from mid-December were excellent and made up for the shortfall! It was a white-knuckle ride though. The kick does not really come until mid-December post-online order cut-off for stores; this means that publishers need to carry additional stock and increase order turnaround times for us all to gain the maximum sales benefit.’
‘On our third Christmas, it was interesting to note the same buying behaviour—relatives buying for kids tending to shop from September, and everyone else waiting until the last two weeks of December,’ reported one New South Wales bookseller.
As previously reported in the pre-Christmas survey, the vast majority of booksellers surveyed reported the delays from Harper Entertainment and Distribution Services (HEDS) as the major issue with the supply of stock, however there were some problems with other suppliers.
‘Obviously the Harper supply issues were a factor, with no stock of Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, Fourth Estate, HEDS) even once they got the hot list up and running,’ said Mostly Books manager and buyer Annie Waters. Eric Idle’s memoir Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (W&N, Alliance Distribution Services) was a most-mentioned title in the pre-Christmas survey, but was not listed in the post-Christmas bestsellers. According to Waters: ‘Eric Idle going out of stock in late November and never reprinting was frustrating. Michelle Obama (Becoming, Viking, United Book Distributors) also ran out for us towards the end of the month.’
Most booksellers (88%) described Christmas as ‘good’. Publishers can anticipate similar returns to last year, with 96% of booksellers expecting returns to be ‘about the same’.
One New South Wales bookseller received a Christmas miracle: ‘Oh wow! With the other local bookshop reopening into larger premises we didn’t know what to expect this Christmas, but the publicity generated around their reopening, and more visitors in the area, led to a very exciting, busy Christmas.’