When are people spending money at local, independent bookstores?

Happy National Librarian Day! Today, we’re taking a look at the state of local, independent bookstores across the country. Don’t worry. We’ll be brief so that you can get back to your page-turner.

The average day for local bookstores

As you’re probably already aware, we like to look at revenue trends in three dimensions so we can better understand how transactions and the average purchase price shape the day’s total sales.

Independent bookstores average about 10 transactions a day at about $59 per order, which brings the average daily revenue to about $617. (You might be thinking, wait. $59 multiplied by 10 transactions would only be $590, and you’d be right. As we are taking a look at the national average of over a 1,000 bookstores, we’ve averaged the numbers and left the decimals to Dewey #librarianjokes).

The average week for local bookstores

The average week for independent bookstores is quite different from other retailers. Where most retail stores see their sales surge on the weekend, in bookstores things actually slow down on Saturday and Sunday. The above graph shows the distribution of revenue over the days of week. It shows us which day(s) of the week is the strongest for revenue, as well as which contribute the least to the weekly total.

  • Sunday – 5.5%
  • Monday – 15.1%
  • Tuesday – 17.3%
  • Wednesday – 17.5%
  • Thursday – 16.9%
  • Friday – 17.7%
  • Saturday – 10.1%

Not surprising, Sunday, the slowest day for retail stores in general, is also the slowest sales day for independent bookstores in America. Bookstores typically generate about $4,334 in revenue and see about 73 transactions over the course of an average week.

The average year for local bookstores

Just as we look at the daily contribution of revenue, we like to see how each month contributes to the annual revenue of independent bookstores. For the most part, the month-to-month fluctuations are small, with a significant exception in August. Local bookstores see a healthy sales boost during the back-to-school rush.

  • Jan – 8.97%
  • Feb – 7.57%
  • Mar– 8.07%
  • Apr– 7.54%
  • May – 8.27%
  • Jun – 7.82%
  • Jul – 7.69%
  • Aug – 11.26%
  • Sep – 8.10%
  • Oct – 7.45%
  • Nov – 7.91%
  • Dec – 9.35%

Over the course of any given month, the average bookstore generates about $18,779 in revenue and 317 transactions.

Annual seasonality for local bookstores

Lastly, we have a look at the week-to-week seasonality of independent bookstores over the course of the year. Every industry has its ebbs and flows during the year. Each differs based on consumer behaviors for that industry. We see several of seasonal shifts that we’d expect.

For example, we can see that bookstores do markedly better in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, and then sales flatline. This is what we’d expect for most retail stores, and it holds true for independent bookstores, too. But the rest of the year’s seasonality is quite unique to local bookstores. 

Seasonality is one of the small business aspects we love to analyze most. While we often about seasonality on a month-to-month basis, but we work in week-long increments. We get fixated on the weekly goals, tasks, lagging sales numbers, and we get discouraged. We love this graph because it proves there are highs and lows from day to day, week to week, and month-to-month. It may feel like you’re in a lull in March, and sure enough, but the time you get to the end of April sales are soaring again. 

A quick note on this graph: This graph shows week-to-week seasonality over the course of the year. The month labels on the x-axis provide context but don’t exactly represent each month’s four weeks. This is due to some months starting mid-week, which makes it appear that some months don’t have fair representation, but that is not the case. For example, February started on a Wednesday and ended on a Tuesday. Because of this, the first week is counted in January and its last week is counted in April.

Take action

Are you looking for more insight into your business transactions? Womply can help with that. We specialize in helping small business owners understand their daily operations better and get easy access to better business information. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

Womply analyzed daily revenue for 1,096 local, independent bookstores in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for all 365 days of the 2017 calendar year. Bookstores were only qualified for the analysis if Womply had a full year of transaction history and the business recorded multiple transactions per day, on average.


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