After months of double-digit declines, bookstore sales jumped 34.7% in March over March 2020, according to preliminary estimates released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Last March marked the first month that bookstore sales began to show the impact of lockdowns, with sales in March 2020 dropping 33.4% compared to March 2019. This March, bookstore sales were $547 million compared to $406 a year ago. In March 2019, sales were $603 million.

The March improvement could be the beginning of steady monthly sales gains compared to 2020. Last April, bookstore sales slumped to their lowest point of 2020, plunging to $169 million. Sales began to rebound slowly through the summer.

The big gain in bookstore sales in March also reflected the overall improvement in retail sales. Sales in the month jumped 31.6% over a year ago.

For the first quarter of 2021, bookstore sales fell 8.2%, to $1.83 billion, compared to the first period of 2020. Total retail sales increased 13.9% in the quarter.