31.07.09 Graeme Neill in The Bookseller
Figures for volume share in 2009, provided by the three leading supermarket booksellers, Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco, and based on Nielsen BookScan data, show that the supermarket sector has more than trebled its share of the books market in the past five years. The combined market share of the three supermarkets is now estimated at just under 20%, compared with the 6.4% share of the market they were estimated to have by TNS in 2004, reported by the Competition Commission's investigation into Woolworth's takeover of Bertrams.
Tesco's volume market share this year is 9.24%. Category manager David Cooke said this figure was more than half a percent behind last year because of continuing fallout following the collapse of its supplier EUK in late 2008. Asda's market share is 7.61%, up from just under 7% in 2008. Sainsbury's average market share in 2009 is approximately 2.72%. The figures do not take into account book sales from Morrisons, Waitrose or Costco.
Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Pali International, said the convenience and pricing of the supermarkets' offer has led to their rising book sales. He said: "If you are in a mind to buy the latest bestseller and it's 50% off, why would you head to Waterstone's or W H Smith? This reason is why someone like Smiths has worked hard to replicate that value offer. Supermarkets' ranges have also got better and it's not just about the top 20 hardbacks any more."
Steph Bateson, books buying manager at Asda, said there was still "unlimited potential" in terms of supermarkets growing book sales. She said: "We have 17.7 million shoppers a week at Asda and among them there is a very small percentage who come to buy their books with us. Clearly there's a huge market to go after."
The supermarkets' share of the book market is smaller when measured by value. Tesco's value market share in 2009 is 5.21% and Sainsbury's averages about 1.49% this year. However, Bateson refused to discuss Asda's market share, and said it was not a relevant measure for performance. "Because we're all about driving volume, and our market share value would be lower due to our being cheapest in the market. There are variables in value share so it's dependent on what you decide to sell it at. Volume share never lies."
David Roche, group sales and marketing director at HarperCollins, cautioned against purely using volume: "Good channel management, to me as a publisher, is using price as a weapon to drive incremental cash margin where it otherwise wouldn't have existed and where it doesn't end up eating into existing sales. I would be wary of scrutinising retail market share exclusively on the basis of volume, as volume growth alone without value growth is not in our interest."