Bookstore sales fell 16.6% in January compared to the first month of 2020, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales in the month were $797 million, down from $956 million in January 2020.

The 16.6% drop was only a slight increase over the 15% decline bookstore sales posted in December compared to December 2019, and is another sign that sales declines could be levelling off. February is typically the slowest month for bookstore sales—in 2020, sales in the month were $573 million—and last year's sales began to tank in March as the pandemic set in. Bookstore sales finished 2020 with a 28% decline compared to 2019.

In general, the retail sector continued to indicate it has put the worst of the pandemic behind it, with sales up 7.9% in the January.