Summary of our market study

As of 2020 and beyond, the French bookstore market is navigating through significant transformations due to shifting consumer habits and the pervasive influence of e-commerce. Traditional bookstores confront the need for reinvention to combat the market share encroachment from online giants like Amazon, which dominates with a 50% market share in online book sales. The situation is underscored by ongoing declines in physical book sales, despite the cultural sector contributing significantly to the French economy, and bookstores being the primary avenue for book purchases.

Facing the challenge are 2,182 bookstore establishments employing around 10,552 people, numbers which have seen a stark decline over recent years. The competition also comes from Large Specialised Stores like Fnac and Cultura, which form a considerable segment of the market. Amidst this competition, bookstores strive to offer a wider array of products, including a rise in children's books and mangas, and experiment with innovative models such as café-bookstores to diversify revenue streams. Despite these efforts, the French book market's growth is sluggish, with projections indicating a modest increase in the global book market by an average annual rate of 0.9% for 2025.

Market Analysis of French Bookstores: Navigating Challenges Amidst Changing Consumer Habits and E-commerce Growth

The French bookstore market has been navigating choppy waters in the wake of shifting consumer entertainment habits and the advent of new market players such as e-commerce giants. Traditional bookstores are adapting and rethinking their strategies to maintain relevance and competitiveness in a challenging environment. The pulse of the bookstore market is closely tied to the global book market's health, which was valued at around €115 billion with an anticipated growth of close to 1% annually through 2025. France stands in sixth place in terms of market value on the global stage. However, the narrative within the country tells a story of struggle, highlighted by a significant decrease in sales volume of books, which fell from about 436 million copies to roughly 419 million copies, marking almost a 4% decline.

Despite these challenges, bookstores remain a staple in French culture, representing 40% of physical book purchases in the country. Revenue figures for French bookstores showed a minor resurgence in 2018, growing by about 0.6%, reaching over €1.75 billion. In terms of foreign trade, France exhibited a slight deficit, with imports marginally outpacing exports. The country's trade balance remained relatively stable with a small deficit over the years. Notably, French-speaking nations like Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada have been key export markets for French books. Delving into consumer behavior, reading is quite prevalent among the French, with nearly 88% identifying as readers and a significant portion buying at least one book. Profiles of these readers show marked differences by gender and age, with variances in genre preferences, such as men favoring comics and women opting for lifestyle and leisure books.

The average annual expenditure per buyer hovered around €116. A majority of book buyers frequent multiple channels aside from bookstores, including large specialized stores (GSS), food superstores (GSA), and online retailers, reflecting a diverse purchasing pattern.

While bookstores attract book buyers across the age spectrum, a sizeable portion of book buyers—about 26%—do not purchase from bookstores, citing reasons like lack of proximity, availability, and higher prices. Bookstores in France face intensified competition from e-commerce, notably from Amazon, which commands the lion's share of online book sales.

The Key Players Shaping the French Bookstore Market Landscape

In the dynamic and evolving French bookstore market, several prominent entities have carved out significant spaces for themselves, each bringing a unique approach to book retail. Let's explore some of these influential players that contribute heavily to the French literary scene.

  • Fnac stands tall as one of the "Large Specialized Stores," with a well-established reputation for not just selling books, but also for being a cultural hub where customers can indulge in a wide spectrum of products, including electronic goods, music, and more. With locations spread across the country, Fnac remains a go-to destination for many bibliophiles seeking the latest reads in a bustling and vibrant setting.
  • Cultura is another giant in this category, known for its expansive stores that offer a vast array of cultural and artistic goods. Like Fnac, Cultura's book selection is only part of a broader offering that includes craft supplies, musical instruments, and games. Nonetheless, their commitment to providing a wide range of books ensures they remain an important fixture in the French book market.
  • Gibert Joseph represents the larger players within the "Bookstore Network" segment. This chain of bookstores has a storied history and a strong presence, particularly with its flagship store on Boulevard Saint Michel in Paris. Renowned for their second-hand book division, they are a popular choice among students and thrifty readers looking for affordable options.
  • Meanwhile, Furet du Nord makes an impact with its significant group of bookstores primarily located in the northern regions of France. With their recent acquisition of Decitre, they have expanded their reach and influence in the French book market, creating a network that offers a comprehensive selection of literary titles to an enthusiastic customer base.
  • The "Network of Independent Bookstores" is an assorted group of alliances that stands as a testament to the collaborative spirit of the French book trade. These include regional associations such as Association libraires indépendantes des Pays de la Loire, Librairies indépendantes en Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Libraires de l'Est, and Paris Librairies.

These networks unite independent bookshops, allowing them to thrive by harnessing collective resources, sharing expertise, and promoting the love for literature at a community level.

Lastly, in the sphere of "Online Distribution," Amazon France looms large as a formidable force and a controversial figure in the French book selling industry. 

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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Definition and scope of study

A bookshop defines any business whose main activity is the sale of books. This can be studied in part using APE code 47.61Z "Retail sale of books in specialized stores", but not only, since it also includes the activities of certain superstores specializing in the distribution of cultural products. Alongside bookshops, food superstores are also involved in book sales in France.

The bookstore market in France has been in deep trouble for several years, battered by changes in French people's entertainment and leisure habits, but also by the changing structure of the market with the entry of new players and new offer formats. Nevertheless, 8 out of 10 French people still claim to read books, and certain segments such as comics and, more generally, books in digital format, are enjoying strong growth.

In a market that is constantly evolving, traditional bookstores are thus forced to reinvent themselves and their value proposition to best meet consumer expectations, and not continue to lose ground to e-commerce players.

List of charts presented in this market study

  • World book market
  • Number of books sold
  • Breakdown of the market for new physical cultural goods
  • French foreign trade
  • Main customer countries
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Latest news

FNAC Darty increasingly driven by services - 23/02/2024
  • - FNAC Darty sales in 2023: 7.9 billion euros, down 0.9
  • - Services account for 15% of group sales
  • - Darty Max subscription reaches 1.1 million subscribers, an increase of 300,000 subscribers over one year
  • - Target of 2 million subscribers for Darty Max by 2025
  • - Group repaired 2.5 million products in 2023
  • - Joint venture with Ceva, "Weavenn", aims to generate 200 million euros in sales and a double-digit operating margin within 5 years
Cultura hires ex-Décathlon man as general manager - 08/02/2024
  1. Year Cultura was founded: 1998
  2. Number of employees: 4,500
  3. Number of stores in France: 109 (including 4 franchises)
  4. Number of references on e-commerce site: over 4 million.
Distribution: Hachette halts its €150 million relocation project - 12/01/2024
  • Hachette's main distribution center, which has existed since 1977, employs over 500 people.
  • Plans to move the center to a new location were cancelled due to a significant increase in costs
  • Hachette is controlled by the Vivendi group.
  • Hachette is the number one publisher in France.
  • The development of distribution activities for third-party publishers is one of Hachette's strong points in France.
After a long slumber, Gaston Lagaffe is back in comics - 22/11/2023
  • More than a quarter century after the publication of his last album, Gaston Lagaffe is back in bookshops.
  • 800,000 copies of the new album "Le retour de Lagaffe" have been printed by Editions Dupuis (part of the Média-Participations group).
  • The 21 volumes of Gaston Lagaffe have sold over 30 million units worldwide.
  • The Média-Participations group has reissued and reprinted older Gaston Lagaffe albums.
  • The task of relaunching Gaston Lagaffe was entrusted to cartoonist Marc Delafontaine.
At Hachette, the day after has finally arrived - 21/11/2023
  • Vivendi has finalized its acquisition of the Lagardère group, owner of French publishing leader Hachette.
  • Arnaud Lagardère has been appointed CEO of Hachette and Stéphanie Ferran has become the group's number two.
  • Hachette has around 7,500 employees worldwide.
Arnaud Lagardère becomes CEO of Hachette - 09/11/2023
  • Hachette is the number one publishing company in France.
  • Arnaud Lagardère is to become CEO of Hachette.
  • Hachette is the world's number three non-professional publisher.
  • Vivendi is close to finalizing the acquisition of the Lagardère group and its assets.
  • Editis is France's second-largest publisher.
  • The Editis group has been sold to International Media Invest (IMI), a subsidiary of the CMI holding company owned by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky.
  • Denis Olivennes will remain Chairman of Editis.

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Gibert Joseph
Furet du Nord Decitre (Nosoli)
Hachette Livre Groupe
Fnac Darty
Michel Lafon Publishing
Éditions Philippe Amaury
Fleurus Editions
Editions Albert René (Hachette Groupe)

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