Bookstore sales fell 21.5% in November compared to a year ago, according to preliminary figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales were $485 million, down from $618 million in November 2019.

The November decline was the smallest monthly drop reported since the pandemic caused bookstore sales to plunge this spring, and suggests that efforts to encourage customers to shop early for the holidays may have worked. However, there are indications from the wider retail survey that December sales were on the soft side. More detailed sales figures for December will be released on February 17.

For the first 11 months of 2020, bookstore sales declined 30% from the comparable period in 2019, falling to $5.46 billion, from $7.81 billion, in the first 11 months of 2019. Sales for the entire retail sector were up 2% in November, and inched ahead 0.2% in the year to date.