Alexander Skipis believes that the small bookstores did not fare quite so badly in the past Corona year. There are no figures on how many bookstores had to close: "If anything, it's a very small percentage," said the CEO of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. People literally stormed the bookstores as soon as they were allowed to reopen. Even on the Internet, book lovers were not ordering from the popular online mail-order company, for example.
Booksellers' online stores accounted for about 27 percent of sales growth in the online market in the pandemic year, while Amazon only came in at about seven percent. "The combination of a physical bookstore and online retail is obviously what attracts people," Skipis said. As expected, online business in particular helped the industry, growing by about 21 percent in the pandemic year. This helped the book market achieve stable overall sales: revenues rose marginally by 0.1 percent and totaled 9.3 billion euros. Skipis calls the fact that the market was still able to make up for the sales losses in spring 2020 a "minor sensation."
Over-the-counter sales nevertheless suffered: overall, booksellers' revenues fell by nine percent. "That is very bitter," Skipis said. However, this "downside" of the market development was exclusively pandemic-related, he added. At 42 percent, the retail book trade continues to have the largest market share, while Internet book trade now accounts for around 24 percent thanks to strong growth.
Nevertheless, the pandemic year failed to inspire more people to buy books: the number of buyers fell by 1.5 percent. With the exception of 2018, this continues a negative trend since 2012. Of those who read books, about 25 percent said they had picked up reading more often during the pandemic, and of those younger than 29, more than 30 percent said the same. "That makes us very optimistic about the future," Skipis said.
According to Skipis, the "catch-up" in sales trends will be much more difficult this year, with the lockdown in 2021 lasting almost twice as long. Through the end of June, sales were down 3.7 percent compared to the pre-Corona six months of 2019, with assortment book sales down as much as 22.9 percent. It's difficult to say how the coming months will play out, he said. However, with positive developments such as bookseller engagement and government support, Skipis sees "a great opportunity to come out of the pandemic stronger."
Image by Hermann Traub