Ipsos Finds Consumer Spending on Children's Books Increased in a Stagnant Market

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Consumers spent more on children's books in 2003 than for each of the previous seven years, according to Ipsos BookTrends(SM), which announced results of 2003's key findings about the children's book industry in June. The report, based on continuous reporting from a panel of 16,000 households, found that consumer spending on books purchased for children under 14 years old increased nearly 11 percent in 2003 over 2002. However, the gains were largely due to a spike in per-book spending rather than an increase in units purchased, noted Barrie Rappaport, chief analyst for Ipsos BookTrends. "Demand for children's books did not keep pace with spending, with unit gains of just more than two percent over the same period last year (465 million books in 2003 versus 454 million in 2002)," according to the report.

Rappaport told BTW, "Per-book spending has increased due to the popularity of interactive/sound books and the emergence of hardcover juvenile fiction titles, such as the fifth Harry Potter. That is good news for the children's book industry." However, overall market growth was slow, she emphasized.

The customer base is shrinking, according to U.S. census data and research analyzed by Rappaport. "The percentage of U.S. households purchasing at least one book intended for someone under age 14 dropped from 35 percent in 2002, to 33 percent in 2003. Despite the new and value-added books on the market, the children's book industry has not managed to substantially increase the volume of children's book purchases or share-of-wallet," she noted.

Limited discretionary spending in an uncertain economy, a lack of free time to read for over-scheduled kids, a diminution of adult reading copied by children, and lagging population growth are all possible factors in the stagnant market, said Rappaport.

The Ipsos BookTrends study also tracks the top properties, licenses, and series books. Winnie the Pooh was the most popular among children up to age five, while for the six- to eight-year-old set, Junie B. Jones was tops. Not surprisingly, Harry Potter came in first place among nine- to 12-year-olds.

Rappaport noted that Scooby Doo books appeared on top ten lists for all but the youngest children. Books featuring Scooby Doo, in a variety of formats -- including coloring and picture books up through chapter books -- ranked ninth in purchases for three- to five-year olds, third for six- to eight-year-olds, and fifth for nine- to 13-year-olds. She described the Scooby Doo brand as "having legs" and noted that "it has crossed so many age groups, reaching kids with different products and presentations depending on the audience. It has been tweaked enough to appeal to young teenagers."

Households in the Ipsos BookTrends study participate for about four years, allowing for in-depth analysis of buying patterns.

"We can measure their book buying behavior over time -- switching composition of purchasing --understanding purchasing behavior," explained Rappaport. "Someone buys books as gifts in a bookstore but buying for herself, she goes to a Costco. For 2004, we changed the children's diary page to reflect today's market conditions. The change allows us to become more attuned to the merchandising aspect than in the past, for example, asking 'where in the store did you buy this?'"

For more information about the Ipsos BookTrends research, go to www.ipsos-na.com/news/. -- Nomi Schwartz