Forecast for book sales: good 2021, uncertain 2022

Book sales are expected to end 2021 on a high note, but a number of factors could cause sales to decline in early 2022, said Kristen McLean, executive director and book industry analyst at NPD BookScan, in a statement. third quarter sales webinar. Although sales of printed books fell in the quarter ended Oct. 2 from a year ago, sales were still up 11% in the first nine months of the year and $ 90 million. ‘units compared to 2019.

McLean believes there is enough momentum as the holidays approach to allow the industry to end 2021 with a 5-9% sales increase from 2020, with the most likely scenario being an increase in 6 to 9%. In a presentation in July, McLean said she believed sales would be up 2-10% for the year, with a 2-8% gain most likely, and three months later, she generally stays optimistic.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, McLean noted, consumers started their holiday shopping early, and given continued reports of supply chain issues, she is confident they will do so again this year, which should. drive sales because consumers typically spend more when they start. early. And while the supply chain is a concern for publishers and authors, McLean doesn’t think it will affect consumers much. If a particular book isn’t available, they’ll choose an alternative, she predicted (and many booksellers agree).

Supply chain issues have contributed to the continued increase in pending book sales as some new titles have been delayed in the market. In the first nine months of the year, the backlist accounted for 69% of unit sales, down from 67% a year ago, and McLean doesn’t see the frontlist bouncing back in the immediate future. She fears that if too many titles are delayed and supply chain issues persist into the New Year (which almost everyone thinks will happen), publishers will be faced with excess inventory for which stores will have a hard time finding space.

Current supply chain challenges, changes in consumer buying habits as the pandemic abates, low consumer confidence, and tough comparisons with a strong first quarter of 2021 all mean the publishers could face a tough first quarter next year, McLean warned. “2022 will be milder,” she said. “We should all put our backs on our backs and be prepared for some negative numbers. “

A version of this article appeared in the 10/25/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the headline: BookScan Still Bullish On Fourth Quarter Sales