Children's market bursts through £600m barrier

News - Children Friday, 17 March 2017

The UK children's market is in robust growth, according to exclusive Nielsen figures unveiled at London Book Fair; but separate data shows digital eroding reading primacy

In volume terms the market rose from 106m units in 2015 to 110m units last year. The value change was more marked, with the overall value of all children's books sold rising from £574m in 2015 to £628m last year. Since 2012, the value of the children's market has grown by 15%, and it now accounts for exactly one third of the overall UK book market.

The figures were presented by Steve Bohme, UK research director at Nielsen, at the Nielsen Children's Book summit, held on the final day of the fair.

Bohme analysed the state of the market if last years two Harry Potter books (Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts) are excluded; the market grew 1% in volume and 15% in value, 2015 v 2016.

Specific data on the Harry Potter purchasers showed that 3/4s were bought for over 17s and 56% were bought by light reading households, and the gender split was exactly 50:50.

The share of children's books purchased in digital formats remains small and is actually shrinking. In 2016 it accounted for 7% of the market, (4% ebooks, 3% audio), down from 8% in 2014. However, since 2012 its share has edged up from 5%.

Twenty-nine per cent of children's book purchases last year were so-called self-purchases, and 27% were bought for Christmas and birthdays. 16% were bought for Christmas, down from 20% in 2012.

Bohme also revealed data on the channels in the market: direct sales (ie retailers like The Book People) accounted for 5% of sales by volume, then supermarkets at 12%, other shops 13%, etailers 28% and bookshops 36%. Since 2012 the etailers share has risen from 24 to 28%, whilst bookshops has fallen from 39 to 36%.

Jo Henry, VP of insight and analytics and data at Nielsen, presented separate data at the summit on how children are being affected by the advent of digital. Reading of books and comics - and being read to - remains the most popular activity for children, with nearly 60% preferring to spend time on it.

However, since 2012 reading as an activity has seen a 10% fall in how much time it has devoted to it whilst there have been major increases in activities such as watching videos on YouTube, using games apps and watching TV on devices, which have all risen by more than 15%.

Children most likely to be reading less now that five years ago are in the light reading categotry: heavy readers are spending almost as much time on the activity as they were in 2012.

Attitudinally, this change is shown in numbers agreeing with the following statements:
- Rather be active than reading: up 7% points 2012-2016
- Rather use internet than read: up 10% points 2013-2016
- Don’t really enjoy reading: up 12% points 2012-2016
- Read less than used to: up 8% points 2012-2016

In terms of access to devices, 78% of children now have access to tablets and 91% to smartphones, up from 24% and 76% respectively in 2012.

The data is based from a panel of 3,000 adults and children regularly interviewed by Nielsen.

The summit, which filled the last morning of LBF, also saw presentations from Andre Breedt, managing director of Nielsen Book Research International, Joanna Felley, managing director of TrendBible and Cally Poplack, managing director of Egmont Publishing and a panel of booksellers. The event was chaired by Kate Wilson, md of Nosy Crow.

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