Sales at bookstores tumbled 33.4% in March compared to March 2019, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales this March were $391 million, down from $587 million a year ago.
The entire retail segment, which rarely shows a monthly sales decline, had a 6.6% drop compared to March 2019.
The drop in bookstore sales was expected as most physical stores closed and many consumers turned to e-tailers such as Amazon and Bookshop to purchase books. The size of the decline of brick-and-mortar sales, however, was higher than some industry members had predicted, given that many stores were opened for about half of the month before being forced to close due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Following the March decline, bookstore sales were down 11.1% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first period of 2019. Sales dropped from $2.16 billion last year to $1.92 billion in the 2020 quarter.
For the entire retail segment, first quarter sales were up 1.8%.