Fixed costs and cover prices on the rise. Inflation is reaching bookstores, and booksellers find themselves increasingly squeezed between the increase in cover prices, which have grown on average by +9% in the last year with a negative impact on sales, and the simultaneous reduction in margins, eroded by the generalized increase in costs: between delivery costs and energy bills, bookshops recorded a 20% increase.
This is what emerges from the survey “Independent bookstores in the time of inflation”, conducted by SWG for the SIL Confesercenti on over 300 bookstores, not linked to national chains, distributed throughout the Italian territory. Survey presented at the Turin Book Fair, in Sala Cobalto, Pavilion 3, in a press conference with the participation of Cristina Giussani, president of SIL Confesercenti, Andrea Palombi, president of ADEI, Independent Publishers Association and Ermanno Anselmi National Coordinator of SIL Confesercenti.
Sales and forecasts
According to what emerged from the survey, sales, in the last 12 months, for 18% of the booksellers interviewed have increased, for 41% they have remained unchanged. The same result for those who declared them decreasing, 41%. The forecasts for 2023, however, are conditioned by the increase in cover prices imposed by publishers: in fact, they are very positive for only 1% of the interviewees, positive for 13%, while they remain stable for 48%, negative for 32% and very negative for 6%.
Business costs are rising
The survey results confirm an overall cost increase of 20%. The increases linked to energy for 54% of the interviewees were substantial, for 28% medium, for 14% limited and only 4% did not find increases. As far as order delivery costs are concerned, 37% of those interviewed saw substantial increases, 38% average, 12% limited and 13% did not find increases. Taxes also affect bookstores: for 24% of those interviewed the increases were substantial, for 36% average, for 26% limited, while 14% did not see any increases. As far as the cost of employees is concerned, 13% of the booksellers interviewed denounce substantial increases, 25% average, 11% limited and 51% do not disclose increases. Finally, as regards rents, 13% declare that the increases have been substantial, 23% average, 12% limited and 52% do not register increases. An increased item for 94% of booksellers who joined the survey is the cover price of books, against 6% who do not see any increases. The average value of those who have recorded increases is 9%.
Tax credit and support
The measures introduced by the Government to help bookshops have represented and are representing a breath of fresh air for many of the companies interviewed. Specifically, the Tax Credit was requested by 51% of the interviewees, against 49% who did not. 96% of those who applied found it useful for their business, against 4% who did not. As far as the Bonus 18 App is concerned, the average value of sales passed through this bonus was 5.4%. The suspension of the financing of the bonus, in anticipation of replacing it, was a mistake for 53% of those interviewed, while it was a right choice for 24%. 23% did not comment on the matter. As regards the teacher’s card (the interviewees declared that an average of 5.5% of their sales went through the bonus), the survey asked if its employment had returned to physical bookstores for the purchase of books: 45% answered in the affirmative against 55% who said no.
Replenishment of books
As regards the supply of sales material, the survey asked booksellers which were the two channels they mainly used; therefore, the percentage value was determined by the sum of the answers: wholesalers were indicated by 62% of the booksellers, just as distributors were one of the two channels used mainly by 62% of the interviewees. 38% said they went directly to publishers and 8% to promotional agents. As regards how much the difficulties in supplying school textbooks by large-scale distribution had an effect on a return of customers to bookshops last autumn, 28% said they having found a greater number of customers against 72% who have not seen changes.
Among the most purchased books in the survey, as a percentage, as the sum of the possible answers, 77% are fiction, 50% non-fiction, 19% manuals, 17% graphic novels, 8% hobbies and creativity, 7% travel guides, 32% other. Among the formats, those with a soft cover are the most purchased by 66% of booksellers. Those with hardcover the most chosen for 36% of the interviewees, the economic ones for 35% and paperbacks for 26%.
89% of booksellers who took part in the survey said they also sell books published by independent publishers, against 20% who do not. The sales percentage of those who do it is 12%.
43% of the booksellers who took part in the survey organize events with authors in attendance, 8% organize them both in presence and online, 15% would like to start organizing them in 2023 and 34% do not organize them and has no intention of starting to do so. The average number of events organized by bookshop is 8. For 14% of booksellers, these types of promotions help sales a lot, for 31% enough, for 27% little, for 6% not at all. 22% of the interviewees did not express themselves.
“Despite the increases and difficulties of this difficult historical period – comments the SIL president Cristina Giussani – the survey data show that bookshops are resisting and that stability is the word that distinguishes them. This heartens us. Another interesting fact is that the relationship between bookstores and independent publishers is intensifying: this allows us to create a virtuous circuit that will benefit both. I also find the choice of many booksellers to create events very positive: SIL has always maintained that organizing meetings with authors not only strengthens the relationship with regular customers, but helps to obtain new ones”.
“Finally, I am pleased that the operators’ requests, which emerged from the dossier, are the requests for which we have been fighting for years, as a trade union, in institutional settings (bringing customers back to physical bookstores as much as possible, acting to defend the margins of booksellers and limit discounts and promotions practiced by large-scale distribution and online platforms; take action to reduce taxation/costs weighing on bookshops). We will work not only to resolve these issues definitively, but also to resolve others which, in the daily relationship with they have emerged and will emerge”, concluded Cristina Giussani.