Books are running out at Costco

The large tables of sale books that were in Costco in Quebec have shrunk by more than half. A few years ago, every store devoted an entire row to books, or six to eight tables. There are only three tables left now, as said at the Duty, deploring it, of the actors of the medium. Without booksellers, with a selection focused mainly on bestsellers, Costco was a significant share of revenue for some Quebec publishers.

“When I arrived at Saint-Jean Éditeur ten years ago, recalls the general manager, Jean Paré, the house had three sources of income: 33% of sales were made at Costco, 33% in bookstores, and 33 % in large circulations”, this term which designates businesses such as Jean Coutu or Walmart, where the sale of books is incidental.

“Today, we do maybe 10% or 11% of our sales at Costco, and we see that they have pulled out of the book. A Costco order for a book by Louise Tremblay D’Essiambre, it is now divided by three compared to ten years ago. »

Judith Landry, General Manager, Publishing, Book Sector, at Quebecor, recalls her 2019 vacation. “There was a Costco in front of the hotel. Although I was on leave, I went there: I wanted to see the books, says the one who manages 18 separate publishing houses (including Librex, Stanké, L’Homme, La Bagnole). There were none. Zero. None. There were bicycles. Muffins. Bathing suits. I called my distributor from the store in a panic. They tried to reassure me, but I was sure they were going to release the books. There you go,” she concludes.

The end of book sales at Costcos in Hawaii made news in the fall of 2022, with authors and the local publishing community worrying about its consequences. The same thing happened in Alaska. On Reddit, we have read in the last month worried comments from readers who see books disappearing from their Costco in various states of the United States, including Florida.

Books to attract certain customers

Costco did not respond to questions from the Duty. It is impossible to confirm whether this is a global strategy, which will affect the dozen countries where the multinational has warehouse stores. Actors in the book industry here believe that Quebecers will be able to continue to buy their books at Costco because the province is a distinct society, to which the market responds.

“The book is a loss leader, which has been used for years at Costco to attract a more educated clientele,” said one of them. I believe that, even if the Costco buyers have changed, the new ones remain attached, perhaps on a lesser scale, to the Quebec book, but that it will remain. »

If Judith Landry is disappointed to see book sales decrease at Costco, this reduction does not affect the income of the publishing houses she manages as much as that of Saint-Jean Éditeur. “It’s a tiny percentage of books that we had the chance to sell at Costco,” she says. Big bestsellers, cookbooks, biographies. With us, it’s basically just THE car guide (Éditions de L’Homme) which entered there. »

Is there a movement of consumers to other points of sale? At Saint-Jean Éditeur, sales in independent bookstores compensate for losses. At Quebecor, “it is too early to tell. At a glance, we have not seen a drop in 2022, but we will talk about it again in seven months, ”underlines Mme Landry. The selection of books still entering Costco remains similar to what it was: titles for adults, lots of children’s books, some stationery and games.

“At Walmart, there are still books, adds Mme Landry, but we are not there in the same logic. People who go to Costco have money; you have a discount on the volume of purchases, but you have to be able to leave with an $800 basket. And when you get there, you see a book, you add it… It was impulsive book purchases that were made there. »

For embarrassed readers

“One day, says Jean Paré, I realized that there were still a lot of Quebecers who were intimidated by the idea of ​​entering a bookstore — about as many as there are who are embarrassed by the idea to enter a museum. »

“Selling books at places like Costco is great, because it can reach those readers, he continues, who buy a book at the same time as their hamburger. “And who would perhaps not buy it elsewhere, otherwise, we understand between the lines.

Some long-term readers still remember that we were able to buy books in tobacco shops in Quebec. Journal and magazine shops have long held it an honorable choice. In addition, bookstores have become both democratized and specialized, and it may be easier to walk through their doors. But “the incidental sale of books” in businesses that focus on completely other products is becoming rare.

Will there be new places that will appear where books can be purchased by the gang?

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