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The Trade Sector
Grattan Kirk

The South African reading population is both ageing and reducing. However, there are opportunities  for local authors and exciting prospects in new emerging market readers including children. 

Covid-19 has had a massively negative impact on the general trade. The estimated General Trade book market (excluding study guides and dictionaries etc) is R1 billion down 23% from R1.3 billion in 2019, while the total book market is estimated to be R1.2 billion (R1.6 billion in 2019).

SABA’s intervention (in particular SABA President Melvin Kaabwe) with Government in reopening book stores gave a much-needed lifeline, and inadvertently “expanded” the definition of what an “educational” book was! The major disruption to the supplier chain from publishers during lockdown was but one of many challenges at that time. Strangely, in lockdown level 1, the theft syndicates seem to have gone to ground – although our bookselling members know to be on high alert at all times.

Top-selling books include The 5am Club, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Grown Ups, Call of the Raven, Manage Your Money Like A F*cking Grown Up, while backlist performed surprisingly well.

The footfall through malls was also impacted, and booksellers have negotiated hard to manage their rent. For most, sadly, the levers are either rent or people, so many have had to reduce staff as well, while online business was massively up.

The pipeline for Christmas – November, December and January – is looking very hopeful for some measure of recovery from some very lean times.

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