Faced with what should have been easy comparisons to January 2018, when bookstore sales fell 9.6% compared to 2017, bookstore sales nonetheless fell this past January compared to a year ago. According to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, January sales fell 10.6%, to $1.10 billion, from $1.23 billion in January 2018.

There are likely several factors for the decline. January is a big back to school month for college students and sales at college stores have steadily softened in recent years. In addition, last January saw huge sales for Fire & Fury, which ended the year selling about 1 million copies. There were no major blockbusters released in January 2019.

The decline in bookstores is in contrast with the 3.4% increase posted by the entire retail segment over January 2018.