- Book sales at big box stores like Target, Costco and Walmart have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic as people grab titles while stocking up on groceries and household essentials, according to The New York Times. At Target, publishing experts said sales in some parts of the book category even tripled or quadrupled.
- Workbooks, activity books and general reading material saw a big increase, according to Dennis Abboud, the chief executive of book distributor ReaderLink, which works with more than 80,000 retail stores. In the first week of April, ReaderLink saw sales increase 34% year over year.
- Rite Aid also reported increases in general book sales, children’s books and puzzles. Meijer saw a strong uptick as well, and a spokesperson for the Midwest chain told The New York Times it is expanding its book department in 80 of its 253 stores.
With Americans having to do most of their shopping at stores deemed essential, big box retailers have had a significant leg up when it comes to product categories like books and entertainment during COVID-19. As people fill their carts with milk, eggs and other needs, they're also snapping up reading material to stave off boredom.
Most bookstores had to close when the pandemic hit, and are still in various stages of reopening. In addition, libraries across the country have also shut down, limiting people’s access to free reading materials. Though many libraries pivoted to offer curbside services or e-reading, they can’t replicate the browsing experience offered in-store.
Big box retailers have even had an edge over Amazon for books and toys. The New York Times noted that when Amazon stopped delivering some products in lieu of essentials, Target, Walmart and the other stores were able to capitalize and keep selling all their inventory.
The assortment of books varies among retailers, the Time noted. Walmart focuses more on commercial fiction and self-help, while Costco sells many classics and children’s workbooks. Target’s selection is more geared toward female readers.
Though book sales have been strong recently, Abboud with ReaderLink thinks sales could slow soon, though not to previous levels.
Retailers may want to pay particular attention to expanding their assortment of kids’ workbooks and school-level reading material. With many school districts announcing online learning in the fall, many parents, particularly those with young children, will likely be looking for supplemental materials to keep their kids learning and entertained while at home.