Thursday, April 09, 2009

Major Bookstore Chains See Sales Fall Again

According to Publisher's Weekly, the three major chains had such a devastating fourth quarter of 2008 that overall 2008 sales fell more than five percent from those of 2007:
Dragged down by a horrible fourth quarter, in which sales fell 9.0%, total revenue for the country's three major chains fell 5.4% in 2008, to $8.9 billion. This is the first year that their combined annual sales have fallen since Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million came to dominate the retail book market. In 2007, sales rose 2.7%, despite a weak holiday season.
Borders seems still to be suffering the biggest decline in year-to-year comparisons: down 8.9% for the whole year and 13.8% in the fourth quarter comparison. Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, is down 3.1% for the year and 6.2% for the quarter. Books-A-Million is down 4.1% for the year but had the best fourth quarter results of the three chains, only falling 2.5% as compared to 2007's fourth quarter.

I suppose that the economy is having such an impact on discretionary spending that bookstores are certain to feel it. I know that I've purchased considerably fewer books in the last six months than in any six month period in several years - and that's a psychological thing. Since I feel poorer than I have in years and because it is impossible to ignore all of the negative economic news about at least the near-term future, I have, almost subconciously, cut back on spending for just about everything. I search hard for book bargains - and the library is my best friend.

I hope the chains survive this mess, but if they don't, I can easily believe that someone will be there to pick up the pieces when the economy takes off again - and that a new chain or two will be born.


  1. The big chains have driven so many smaller bookstores out of business that it's hard to feel sorry for them. With e-books, internet sales, Wal-Mart, Target and Costco, I wonder how much life the big chains have left in them.

  2. You don't have to feel sorry for the bookstore, but at least try to conjure up some sympathy for the thousands of booksellers who are worried about their livelihoods.

    For the record, though, I don't think those stores are going anywhere.

  3. I sure hope that the big stores survive, but this is because I have a habit of spending a real lot of time in them, drinking coffee and reading. And spending money on books.
    Even though I too feel poorer lately, I keep buying books on a regular basis, and this is even with reliance on the Library also.
    My lifestyle is completely the type that the big bookstores love. Single, and addicted to books and coffee.

  4. I hear you, C.B., but I do think that the big chains will always have a place in bookselling unless we go the way of nothing but eBooks at some point in the distant future. I love to hate them - but I love having them around. Go figure.

    I hope they don't go the way of Blockbuster, a company that seems destined to disappear soon.

  5. Annie, I think you're right. There are thousands of booksellers out there working for the big three or four chains in North America who have to be at least a bit worried about their jobs.

    My closest Barnes & Noble seems a lot emptier this year than last - although the coffee bar is still busy as ever...something I've just started to use since I can use the WiFi service free now.

  6. Single and addicted...that makes you the perfect bookstore customer, Cip.

    I still buy books, too, but I'm finding myself taking fewer chances on unknown writers (unknown to me) and that's kinda sad for someone who spends as much time as I do writing his own book blog. :-)