PRH Canada Focuses on Mental Health

Throughout January, Penguin Random House Canada is spotlighting holistic health and wellness for its community of readers and employees. The company launched a marketing campaign encouraging people to limit screen time and “put down the phone, pick up a book,” and it’s offering book recommendations on mindfulness, health, productivity, and activism.

As part of that campaign, PRH has transformed its on-site book kiosk, located in the lobby of the company’s headquarters in Downtown Toronto, into a showcase for one of its lead titles for the season, Don Gillmor’s To the River, a memoir focusing on the suicide of the author’s brother. The kiosk also offers a selection of books for sale on related topics, including titles about addiction and depression, family mental health, and “fiction therapy.”

PRH Canada has also shifted its focus internally toward supporting the mental health of its employees and begun offering a C$3,000 mental heath benefit. Last year, when Kristin Cochrane was promoted to CEO of PRH Canada, she told PW that she would implement a “people-first” approach to management, and these words are echoed by Anika Holder, director of human resources at the company, when she speaks of the enhanced benefit: “The well-being of our employees is central to establishing a high-performance, people-first culture. This is why it was important for us to respond to employee feedback and emerging needs in the workplace by designing progressive and creative employee programs and supports.”

German Book Sales Down in 2018

In Germany, the preliminary figures for 2018 published by trade magazine Buchreport show a 2.3% decrease in unit sales compared to the previous year, leading to a 0.6% drop in overall revenue from €9.1 billion in 2017, according to the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (Association of the German Book Trade). Buchreport noted that the decline in unit sales was slightly offset by a 1.7% rise in book prices and by strong holiday sales.

Still, German publishers are concerned about the future. Last year, the Börsenverein issued a report stating that Germany had lost 6.5 million book buyers between 2013 and 2017. Though German booksellers benefit from fixed book prices and an efficient distribution system that delivers products overnight to almost any store in the country, making them competitive with Amazon, online sales grew at a rate of 2%–3% in 2018, while sales at bricks-and-mortar stores fell by 0.6%.

At the start of January, Thalia and Mayersche, two of Germany’s largest bookstore chains, announced plans to merge. If the merger is approved by the competition board, the combined companies will operate more than 350 bookstores and sell books in an additional 1,000 outlets, including grocery and convenience stores. Thalia CEO Michael Busch cited the decline in book buyers as one of the reasons for the merger. In this retail environment, “alliances are necessary,” he told the German press at the time of the announcement.

Malaysia’s Big Bad Wolf Grows

BookXcess, which runs several bookstores in Malaysia and a number of popular traveling pop-up bookstores under the name Big Bad Wolf, celebrated its 10th anniversary at the end of the last year. The bookseller, which primarily sells English-language remainders, claims to offer the biggest book selection in the world, with millions of titles available.

The first pop-up Big Bad Wolf sale was held a decade ago in Kuala Lumpur, and it has since expanded across Asia to countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and, as of October, the United Arab Emirates.

BookXcess’s recent pop-up holiday sale in Kuala Lumpur ran 24 hours a day from December 7–17 and offered 4.5 million books for sale. An estimated 500,000 people attended the event, which offered books in English as well as Bahasa Malaysian and Chinese.

BookXcess opened a new store earlier this month in Penang, its first Malaysian store outside Kuala Lumpur. The latest Big Bad Wolf traveling sale is running in Yangon, Myanmar—the first in that country—from January 18 to 28.