Nielsen BookScan began including book sales from Wal-Mart in its service starting with the week ending January 6, 2013, and the addition shed at least some light on the impact that the world’s largest retailer has in the book indusstry. Wal-Mart’s figures are part of the mass merchandisers and others strata within BookScan, and print units in that segment rose 65% in the first week of 2013 compared to the first week of 2012. While other factors could have contributed to the increase, there is little doubt that the bulk of the gain was due to the addition of Wal-Mart.
The BookScan figures are consistent with what has been the prevailing school of thought about Wal-Mart’s book operations—that its greatest strengths lie in fiction and mass market paperbacks. Although there have been reports that Wal-Mart has cut back shelf space devoted to mass market paperbacks, the inclusion of the retailer’s book sales more than doubled the units sold of the format in Wal-Mart’s segment during the week ending January 6, 2013, compared to the first week of 2012. The new numbers also show how important sales through mass merchandisers are to the mass market paperback format; those outlets accounted for 43% of all mass market paperback sales in the first week of 2013, while generating only 13% and 12% of hardcover and trade paperback sales, respectively.
By category, units of adult fiction more than doubled in the mass merchandisers and other segment in the week, compared to one year ago, due to the addition of Wal-Mart’s results. The category generated about 52% of unit sales at mass merchandisers in the week, easily outdistancing juvenile fiction, which accounted for 28% of unit sales in the channel.
Even with the addition of Wal-Mart, however, the retail and club channel continues to account for the lion’s share of units sold. Retail and club, which includes outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores, accounted for about 84% of print units in the week, with the mass merchandisers and other channel accounting for 16% of print units.
With the addition of Wal-Mart, BookScan now believes it captures approximately 80% of print book sales in the U.S. The addition of the retailer, however, will make it difficult to do annual comparisons of print unit performance, since BookScan is not adding historical Wal-Mart data. As a result, total units for the week, as reported by BookScan, rose 3% over 2012, due almost certainly to the addition of Wal-Mart. Unit sales in the retail and club channel fell 4% in the week, compared to the first week of 2012. Given the amount of sales represented by the retail and club segment, if Wal-Mart sales were excluded from the totals, it is likely that print sales would have been off by 2% to 3%.
|Unit Sales in Mass Merchandisers & Other Strata (in thousands)|
|Category||Week ending 1/8/12||week ending 1/6/13||% Change|
|Format||Week ending 1/8/12||week ending 1/6/13||% Change|
|Mass Market Paperback||325||696||114|
|(Source: Nielsen Bookscan)|