Children's market up 3.5% in first three months of 2017
For the first 11 weeks of 2017, the Children’s market is up 3.5% in value, to £67.3m, compared to the same period a year ago. The growth is being driven by Children’s & YA Fiction, which has rocketed 4.95% in value for the year to date, following continuing strong sales for David Walliams’s Christmas number one The Midnight Gang and a World Book Day tranche that posted a 48% bump in volume year on year for their combined first week of sales.
A few years ago, the Children’s market was the only print category in growth. Now that print across the board is firmly back in the black, kids’ books have soared to even greater heights. The past three years have seen Children’s hit a record high in annual value terms three times in a row—in each of those years its growth has outstripped that of the overall market too—and it has decisively overtaken Adult Fiction as the market’s second-biggest category. Last year, more than one in three print titles purchased was a Children’s book, with 24p in every £1 spent on a print book going on a kids’ title.
In 2016, the market did have a little bit of help from one of its fantastic beasts: J K Rowling earned £29m, with roughly £28m of that coming from her Children’s stable. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child shifted a whopping 1.4 million copies, bringing in £15.9m, a hefty 10% of Children’s & YA Fiction’s total value for the year—which was its highest ever. The original Potter seven also enjoyed a jump, selling a combined 803,607 copies for £4.9m in 2016. Not bad for a series that’s a decade old. And let’s not forget Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which earned a further £3.25m in what surely must have been the best year for playscripts ever.
But Rowling wasn’t the only Children’s superstar: in the past three years, David Walliams has really come into his own. Surpassing US behemoth Jeff Kinney in sales on these shores in 2014, Walliams topped £10m earned in 2015—then blew it out of the water in 2016, bringing in £13.8m, a 26% jump year on year. Not only did his extra short-story collection, The World’s Worst Children, boost his total, but November release The Midnight Gang was his fastest-selling title to date, topping the Official UK Top 50 for seven straight weeks and clinching the Christmas Number One. All in all, Walliams’ blockbuster backlist has helped the Children’s & YA Fiction category increase 41% in value terms since 2013.
The Pre-school & Picture Books (PPB) category had a quieter 2016, after a rollicking 2015 in which Judith Kerr’s Mog’s Christmas Calamity was the first picture book to top the UK’s overall weekly chart, and the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” bumped up the Novelty & Activity Book sub-category. But though PPB in 2016 was £3.1m down on an exceptional 2015, it was still some 9.5% up on 2014’s total. Sub-category star Julia Donaldson’s empire grew by 4% year on year, making her one of the two biggest-earning authors for a sixth straight year.
Children’s Non-Fiction is having a harder time. In 2014, the popularity of Egmont’s Minecraft series boosted it to hitherto-unforeseen heights of £44.5m, a jump of £11.7m (+35%) on the year before. Though the sub-category has continued to hover above the £40m mark, it has struggled to replicate Minecraft mania—though Pokémon Go-related titles helped the category climb 3% in 2016.
School Textbooks & Study Guides continues to defy the print naysayers. Contravening the much-predicted digital migration, the sub-category has had its best three-year run on record: its 2016 total (£46.5m) was another record high.