In a year-end holiday letter to publishers on Thursday, American Booksellers Association's CEO Oren Teicher thanked them for their ”ongoing support” and said it "looks as if book sales for ABA members stores will be up nearly five percent over 2017" for the year.
Teicher credited publishers with working to help stores operate more profitably. "Two important factors in that success have been stores’ ability to keep down their costs and the continued improvement in the cost of goods sold," wrote Teicher. "I can’t overemphasize the importance of that second factor. The drop of the cost of goods over the past few years is a direct result of all the innovative changes that you and your colleagues have made in policies, programs, and terms, which has resulted in more of your books being sold in a channel uniquely able to showcase the full range of your titles." He also praised efforts to increase pre-order sales and promised a plan to do "much more" in 2019 to bolster this channel.
Looking forward, Teicher said the biggest challenges to bookstore profitability were "upward pressures in occupancy and payroll" costs. He also noted that the organization was concerned about the "potential consolidation among national wholesalers," referring to the recent rumors about a potential sale of Baker & Taylor's retailing wholesaling arm to Ingram, without naming it specifically. "It certainly has been ABA’s experience that there has never been an instance in the book business when the elimination of competition — and a further concentration of decision-making in fewer hands — has worked to the advantage of booksellers, publishers, or authors, let alone the reading public," he wrote, before adding, "We are monitoring this situation carefully, and ABA is committed to acting vigorously on behalf of our member bookstores.
Teicher indicated that in 2018 ABA membership grew for the ninth year in a row, with stores operating in more than 2,400 locations.