The rate of decline for bookstore sales continued to slow in July. According to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, bookstore sales dropped 24.6% in July compared to a year ago, falling to $431 million. July's sales were a marked improvement from the $163 million reported in April and were up 12.8% over June when sales were $382 million; June bookstore sales were down 35% from June 2019.

Though the July decline was less severe than in recent months, the July drop was the fifth consecutive month bookstore sales had steep drops compared to 2019. For the first seven months of 2020, bookstore sales were down 31.6% from the comparable period a year ago, falling to $3.17 billion from $4.63 billion.

Booksellers are counting on an improved last four months of the year to stem the losses incurred so far in 2020. ABA CEO Allison Hill told PW in an interview conducted as part of our coverage of the regional fall trade shows, that given disruptions to the bookselling landscape caused by the pandemic, “the next four months will determine whether many independent bookstores stay in business come January,” she said.

Independent booksellers are tough, Hill noted, but they can’t go it alone. “The indies are creative, hardworking, innovative, and resilient. They have adapted to grow online sales and are taking the necessary steps to prepare for Q4. Even so, survival for many stores will require more support from publishers and wholesalers. Publisher relief and support for the indie channel at this crucial moment is an investment in the future of the industry.”