You really can’t miss the recent headlines trumpeting supply-chain kinks and potential product shortages of all kinds during the holidays. And while supply-chain issues like printing delays, paper shortages, and logistic disruptions are definitely affecting publishers and authors, the main impact for consumers has been to get them shopping much earlier than in previous years.
This “next day shipping” effect was effectively broken in 2020, as the massive growth in online shopping brought on by the pandemic caused shipping and logistics companies to warn shoppers to order early to make sure presents were on-hand in time for the holidays.
Book sales rose 12% during the 2020 holiday season, and it seems like 2021 sales are kicking off earlier still. In October 2021, a total of 443,000 kids’ Christmas print books sold in the U.S., according to NPD BookScan. That’s 7% more than October 2020 and a whopping 78% more than in October 2019, before we’d even heard a whisper about COVID-19. In addition, kids’ Halloween book sales increased by only 20,000 units in October, compared to September.
The recent Holiday Purchase Intentions survey from NPD revealed that more than four in ten U.S. consumers had already purchased holiday gifts by October of this year. Among those early holiday shoppers, 42% said they started their shopping early because of concerns around availability or supply in stores.
Adding even more yule logs to this early-shopping fire, “juvenile fiction holidays and celebrations” was the top-growing subject in October 2021. And, compared to the previous month, Christmas book sales rose by more than 300,000 units in October. Kids’ Christmas books also experienced two-times more absolute unit gains than Halloween books did in October, showing that this elevated volume is indeed a result of early holiday shopping.
What will be the result of all of this early shopping? If past seasons are anything to go by, people will shop early and also shop close to the holiday, which could bring us one of our best holiday seasons for books overall. That would indeed be a very nice holiday gift for the entire industry.