In the third month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of many stores, sales at bookstores in May dropped 59.9%, to $271 million, compared to May 2019, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. In the first five months of the year, bookstore sales fell 32.1%, to $2.36 billion. In March, bookstore sales had dropped 33.2%, to $392 million, and in April bookstore sales dropped 74.1%, to $163 million.
Total retail sales in May dropped 7.2%, to $507.5 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales fell 4.6%, to $2.47 trillion.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution: "Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely. The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."