Bookstore sales took an unprecedented plunge in April, tumbling 65.3% compared to April 2019, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
April sales fell a total of $412 million from 2019, dropping to an anemic $219 million. In March, bookstore sales fell 33.4% compared to a year ago. March sales were $392 million, meaning April sales declined 44.3% from March to April.
Total retail sales dropped 19.4% in April compared to 2019 after falling 6.6% in March from 2019.
April is expected to be the worst month for bricks-and-mortar stores, as many outlets were closed because of stay-at-home orders issued to combat the coronavirus. Indeed, advance sales data for May showed total retail sales rising 17.7% over April. (Advance sales do not break out bookstore sales.) Compared to May 2019, sales were down a relatively modest 6.2%.
For the first four months of 2020, bookstore sales fell 23.3% compared to 2019, falling to $2.14 billion. Sales for the entire retail sector were down 3.8% in the period.