The average American adult reads 12 books a year, according to the Pew Research Center. That may have changed over the course of the pandemic, though.
Many people have taken to fewer nights out and more time at home over the past year and some change. And now, with the delta variant raging, the trend could continue as colder weather approaches, which could end up being a boon to booksellers.
In fact, one well-known purveyor of books has managed to beat the odds and thrive during the pandemic. And that's something real estate investors should be very happy about.
Barnes & Noble is having quite the year
Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) has reported double-digit sales growth in books this year compared to 2019. Book sales are up 12% through August of this year on an industry-wide level compared to the same timeframe a year ago. More impressively, U.S. book sales are up 20% from August of 2019 -- though it's easy to see why reading may have picked up during a major health crisis that kept many people locked inside their houses for months on end.
But as encouraging as this news may be for Barnes & Noble, it should be equally encouraging for shopping center and mall operators. Shopping centers and malls have lost countless tenants over the course of the pandemic -- and some of those tenants included anchor stores whose square footage is harder to fill.
If booksellers have a solid year, we could see more of them pop up on a national level. And that could, in turn, help shopping centers and malls fill some of the vacancies they're currently stuck with.
It's also encouraging to see Barnes & Nobles recorded strong sales at a time when the retailer faces so much competition from Amazon. In fact, Amazon has long been accused of forcing physical bookstores out of business. So, seeing a retailer with a strong brick-and-mortar presence succeed should give real estate investors hope.
How long will booksellers ride the pandemic wave?
Booksellers may be having a good year, but what happens when things improve on the coronavirus front and life begins to resemble pre-pandemic times? Will consumers continue to spend money on books? Or will they divert that money to experiences like concerts and dining out in restaurants instead?
It's hard to know. Loyal readers are apt to continue supporting retailers like Barnes & Noble, and those who adopted reading habits over the past 18 months may not be so quick to shed them. And given that so many companies are making plans to retain remote work setups beyond the pandemic, at least on a partial basis, there's reason to believe that readers will favor physical books over e-books to lessen the amount of time they spend staring at screens.
All told, strong sales out of Barnes & Noble is a good thing all around. Let's just hope that trend holds nice and steady once the pandemic is truly a thing of the past.