In December, bookstore sales fell 7.6%, to $1.174 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the full year, bookstore sales fell 5.7%, to $9.999 billion.
By comparison, independent bookstores have done better than the Census Bureau average, which includes a range of retailers that sell books. Through December 18, sales at ABA member stores, as reported to the weekly bestseller lists, were down 0.03% compared to the same period in 2018. Compound annual growth among ABA member stores is 7.5% during the past five years.
Total retail sales in December rose 5.7%, to $595.5 billion. For the full year, total retail sales rose 3.6%, to $6.2 trillion.
The drop in bookstore sales last year was partly attributable to the lack of major trade titles with the strength of Michelle Obama's Becoming. In 2018, bookstore sales jumped 9.2% in December and sales for the full year rose 1.7%.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books."