Bookstore sales rose 0.8% in February over February 2019, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The increase, from $644 million last year to $649 million, ended a long monthly losing streak for bookstore sales, but the blip is sure to be erased in March, when the full impact of the new coronavirus will be felt. For the first two months of 2020, bookstore sales totaled $1.73 billion, a decline of 2.8% from the comparable period in 2019.
In addition to releasing February sales for a large number of retail segments, the Census Bureau also published advanced figures for all of retail for March. The early numbers show that retail sales fell 6% in March compared to March 2019, after being up by 6.6% in the first two months of 2020. When measured against February 2020 sales, total retail sales dropped 8.7% in March, a decline that CNBC said was the largest monthly decline since the government began tracking sales in 1992.
A PW survey of about 30 independent bookstores showed sales in March 2020 fell an average of 9.4% compared with the previous March, and were down 6.5% from February 2020.