Fueled by huge gains for a host of Dr. Seuss titles as well as solid results for several new books, unit sales of print books soared 34.2% last week over the week ended March 8, 2020, at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Last year's sales at this time also began to see the first effects of the pandemic on business.
Late February/early March always sees a bump in sales of Dr. Seuss titles due to promotions conducted by Random House in association with Read Across America Day. This year, however, interest in Dr. Seuss titles was heightened by the announcement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises that it would stop printing six books written between 1937 and 1976 because of concerns that the titles “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong." None of the books on that list was among the top 50 sellers on BookScan’s juvenile fiction list.
Four of the top five bestselling titles last week were Seuss books, and their sales dwarfed sales in the same period a year ago: Cat in the Hat sold about 105,000 copies last week, compared to 22,000 copies in the first week of March last year; Green Eggs and Ham numbers were 90,000/34,000; One Fish Two Fish Blue Fish Red Fish, 88,000/26,000; Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, 74,000/43,000; and Fox in Socks, 64,000/23,000. Overall, unit sales in the juvenile category rose almost 58% over the comparable week in 2020.
It wasn't just Seuss books that drove the gains last week. Sales in adult fiction jumped 40%, helped by a strong showing by the sale of nearly 80,000 copies of Sister Souljah’s Life After Death and sales of almost 57,000 copies of Stephen King’s Later.
Print units rose 45.1% in the young adult fiction category last week, led by Tracy Wolff’s Covet, which sold more than 13,000 copies. Young adult nonfiction sales increased 45.1%.
The adult nonfiction category had the smallest gain among the six major segments, but still posted a 17.6% increase and had three new books sell well. Jordan Peterson’s Beyond Order topped the category list, selling more than 68,000 copies in its first week on sale. Clea Shearer’s The Home Edit Workbook and Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones both sold over 16,000 copies in their first week on sale.
Through March 6, unit sales were up 22% over the comparable period a year ago. Beginning next week, sales comparisons will begin to see the full impact of the pandemic on sales, as it will mark the anniversary of when physical stores began to shut down and the supply chain underwent some early disruptions.