Bookstore sales rallied slightly in December from deep monthly slumps for most of 2020, but were still down 15.2% in the last month of the year compared to December 2019. For all of 2020, bookstore sales fell 28.3% from 2019, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
December bookstore sales were $879 million, down from $1.04 billion in December 2019. The 15.2% December drop was the smallest decline since February, when sales slipped 0.7% before the global pandemic struck. In March, sales fell 33.2% as retail lockdowns kicked in, then plunged 74.2% in April as stay at home orders fully took hold. May sales were slightly better, falling 60% from May 2019.
Bookstore sales declines generally eased as 2020 moved toward the end of the year. November sales were down 21.5%, following a 28.9% decline in October. For the full year, bookstore sales were $6.34 billion compared to $8.84 billion in 2019.
For the entire retail segment, sales for the year were up 0.6%, with December sales ahead 4.2%.
Since Covid-19 led to widespread retail lockdowns, the Census Bureau has noted that it “continues to monitor response and data quality” to its monthly estimates, and it has repeatedly found that the numbers it has provided meet its standards. The agency has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards.
The Census Bureau typically makes later adjustments to its preliminary estimates, but those changes will not dramatically alter the final sales numbers. Bookstore sales are from stores at which books constitute at least 50% of revenue.