The sector’s turnover is down 3.3% according to the Bookstore Syndicate. But the largest stores have particularly suffered from the two lockdowns.
For independent booksellers, the dreaded catastrophe has been avoided. According to data published on Tuesday by the Syndicat de la Librairie Française (SLF), the 2020 turnover of these businesses is down 3.3% compared to the previous year. “At the end of the first confinement, the profession rather expected a year at -15%, even -25%», Underlines Guillaume Husson, general delegate of the SLF.
2020 had indeed started very badly. The strict spring containment linked to the Covid-19 pandemic had led to a dizzying drop in bookstore sales: -60% in March, -90% in April, -20% in May. Rebelote in November, where bookstores were classified as non-essential stores, with a decline of more than 20% in turnover compared to 2019. As in many other sectors, click and collect will not have that partially offset the closing of shops.
It is the exceptional influx of customers during the two deconfinements that allowed bookstores to limit breakage. The monthly turnover thus soared by 32% in the month of June alone, and by 35% in December, a crucial month for this sector. Never seen. But not all booksellers are delivered in the same boat. “One in five bookstores shows a drop of more than 10%”Of its annual turnover, warns the Union.
Small bookstores in the green
SLF data show that it is the largest bookstores, those which achieve more than 4 million euros in revenue per year, which are the most penalized by this year 2020. Guillaume Husson offers two explanations. “These bookstores cannot live solely on their neighborhood customers. However, trips were less this year. They are also very present in the school and university market, sectors that suffered in 2020.»
Conversely, bookstores with a turnover of less than one million euros ended the year in the green. The most modest, who earn less than 300,000 euros per year, have even seen their sales jump by nearly 15%. “This is a phenomenon that has been observed for three years and which has become more pronounced in 2020. We are going to launch studies to better understand it», Indicates Guillaume Husson.
Among the hypotheses, “the outpouring of solidarity towards independent commerce vis-à-vis Amazon, which is more evident among small neighborhood bookstores than among very large bookstores.However, the SLF is concerned about the fate of the very young booksellers created in 2020.who are still in debt, have no cash and have not had time to build their clientele. These are cases to follow.»
The union is also wondering what 2021 has in store for it. “Will there be binding curfews for these businesses? Will there be a new containment? There is no guarantee that there will be a third run in bookstores when it reopens.»Another questioning:«Will the craze for local bookstores be confirmed over time?»
Le Goncourt at the top of sales
In addition, SLF data shows that only three categories of books saw their sales increase in 2020: novels (+ 4.6%), practical books (+ 6.5%) and the comic and manga sector ( + 14.3%).
These trends are found in the top best-selling books in bookstores, communicated at Figaro by the SLF. At the top of the podium is the Goncourt L’Anomalie prize from Hervé Le Tellier, followed by The Enigma of the House 622 by Joël Dicker and by the graphic novel L’Arabe du Futur Tome 5 by Riad Sattouf.
The rest of the top 10 is made up of: Mirror of our sorrows (Pierre Lemaître), the memories of Barack Obama A promised land, The land of others (Leila Slimani), Yoga (Emmanuel Carrère), the last Lucky Luke (Jul, Achde), Change flower water (Valérie Perrin), the Renaudot L’Histoire du fils prize (Marie-Hélène Lafon) and the America prize and Fnac prize for the novel Betty (Tiffany McDaniel)