Led by the megabestseller Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer and The Return by Nicholas Sparks, sales at Hachette Book Group jumped 19.2% in the quarter ended September 30, 2020, over the comparable period in 2019, parent company Lagardère reported. In addition to those bestsellers, HBG saw strong sales for several books tied to the Black Lives Matter and social justice movements. Digital sales, Lagardère said, “continue to enjoy bullish growth” in the quarter.
HBG CEO Michael Pietsch expanded a bit on the publisher’s results. He said that the third quarter gains were due to the reopening of bookstores and gains in children’s books, science fiction, general fiction, and audio, “which have helped to offset the impact of the continuing global health crisis on some of our businesses.”
Across all of its publishing divisions, Lagardère said that sales increased 6.3% in the quarter, to €704 million. Solid gains in the U.K., where revenue rose 15.6% in the quarter, and in France, which saw a 4.8% rise, offset a 20.8% decline in Spain/Latin America.
E-book sales had another good quarter across Lagardère’s publishing operations and represented 9.9% of total sales in the third quarter of 2020, up from 7.8% in last year’s third quarter. Downloadable audiobook sales also grew, and accounted for 3.7% of revenue compared to 2.9% one year earlier.
Underpinning the global growth, Lagardère said “the sharp rebound” in sales in June as lockdown measures were eased continued throughout the third quarter, “albeit at a slightly more moderate pace.” For the first nine months of 2020, publishing sales were down 1.9% compared to a year ago, falling to €1.67 billion.
Lagardère was cautious about prospects for its publishing group in the fourth quarter. It said the division was facing difficult comparisons to last year’s fourth quarter, when several volumes in the Asterix comic series were released. In addition, the company said new lockdowns in France and the U.K. were a concern.
While Lagardère’s publishing division had a good third quarter, its travel group saw sales fall 66%. Travel sales were down 57% in the first nine months of 2020.