Bookstore sales, which struggled for most of the year, ended 2019 with a weak December and finished the year with a 5.7% sales drop compared to 2018, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sales in December fell 7.5% compared to a year ago, declining to $1.17 billion from $1.27 billion. For the full year, sales declined to $10.0 billion, from $10.6 billion in 2018.
With the exception of I Know Where the Crawdads Sing, there was no huge bestseller in 2019 and many retailers complained about the lack of a breakout hit during the holiday season. Nonfiction sales were hurt with comparisons to 2018 when political books sold in big numbers. College stores have also had to deal with generally soft sales as more students buy digital products.
The Census Bureau often revises its preliminary figures, but it is all but certain the final numbers will show a sales decline for the bookstore segment.
For the entire retail sector, the government reported that December retail sales were up 5.6% over 2018 and that total sales for the year increased 3.5%.