Britney Spears’ iconic career has seen her top charts and sell out arenas across the globe. Now she might be able to add a Christmas book-buying surge to her impressive list of accolades.
U.K.-based book retailer WH Smith has enjoyed a jump in revenues and profits in the last year, and the pop star appears to be partly responsible for driving a late-year surge as readers flock to read about her extraordinary life ahead of the holiday season.
According to its annual report, WH Smith nearly doubled profits last year as chief executive Carl Cowling hailed its surging travel business. Revenues rose 28% to £1.8 billion ($2.2 billion) in the last 12 months.
WH Smith, which is dotted around the world’s airports, is enjoying a resurgence alongside the return of widespread air travel. The group is opening up stores in airport lounges across the globe, and is significantly expanding its footprint in North America.
But speaking to the Guardian, Cowling was keener to shout out the influence of Britney Spears and other authors on an apparent holiday surge in sales.
Cowling was talking about the release of Spears’ memoir, The Woman in Me, which came out on Oct. 24. The latest crime novel from U.K. author Richard Osman was also credited with increasing demand.
“It’s not going to be up by much but it’s a good robust market,” Cowling told the Guardian.
It’s unsurprising that WH Smith is enjoying the tailwind of sales of Spears’ book, which has become a global bestseller. The pop star’s meteoric rise at the start of the century—combined with a troubled personal life and a period under her father’s conservatorship—has captivated readers.
The book sold more than 1.1 million copies in the U.S. in its first week of release, the AP reported.
“I poured my heart and soul into my memoir, and I am grateful to my fans and readers around the world for their unwavering support,” Spears said in a statement released by her publisher Gallery Books, per AP.
Spears isn’t the first unlikely source to push consumers back to stores to pick up physical books, but she will nonetheless be a boon for companies like WH Smith who rely on copies flying off the shelves.
Hard copies winning over shoppers
Retailers have in the last decade been forced to contend with the increased availability of e-books on tablets like the Amazon Kindle or Apple’s iPad. Meanwhile, the audiobook sector is enjoying its own growth with streaming platforms including Spotify ramping up investment in the medium.
However, there is a growing rise in demand for physical books backed largely by social media.
Booktok, a TikTok trend that sees users review books, is hugely popular on the site and has given shoppers a new reason to order hard copies of books. The hashtag had more than 181 billion views as of September, according to Wordsrated.
There were 669 million books sold in the U.K. last year, according to the Publishers Association, a record for sales in the country.
In August, U.K. retailer Theworks credited BookTok phenomenon Colleen Hoover with offsetting some of its falling profits.
Hoover rose to stardom during COVID-19 lockdowns, as TikTokers discovered the romance writer’s back catalog, some of which had been published years prior. She has gone on to sell more than 20 million books.