Love is in the air

Sam McBratney’s ‘Guess How Much I Love You?’ is currently enjoying its customary ascent up the February bestseller lists. The classic children’s picture book, illustrated by Anita Jeram, is a popular choice of gift for Valentine’s Day, for obvious reasons.

First published in 1994, the book enjoys its strongest sales outside of Christmas in the period leading up to Valentine’s Day and stays fairly elevated throughout March and into April helped by additional gifting around Mother’s Day and Easter.

It is certainly not the only book with the word “love” in the title to enjoy success around Valentine’s Day. According to Nielsen BookScan data, 126 different books with the word “love” in the title earned a spot in the top 5,000 bestseller list in the week before Valentine’s Day last year, including Camilla Reid and Ingela Arrhenius’s ‘Peekaboo Love’, Rachel Bright and Nadia Shireen’s ‘Slug in Love’, the TikTok hit ‘What I Love About You’ and ‘Penguin’s Poems for Love’.

Poetry is a good hunting ground for a Valentine’s Day gift (William Shakespeare! Pablo Neruda!) so it is no surprise to find that the market normally enjoys a small boost around Valentine’s Day.  But of the 250 product class categories within BookScan data, three actually enjoyed their strongest weekly sales of the year in the week prior to Valentine’s Day in 2019, the last year we have full-year data for.

The biggest of the three in terms of overall volume sales that week was, ahem, “Erotic Fiction”. Sales rocketed by 470% in a fortnight, although this was largely due to one major outlier in the form of Leila Slimani’s ‘Adèle’, which hit shelves on 7th February that year.

The two other very romantic categories to enjoy their highest sales in the week prior to Valentine’s Day in 2019? “Software Packages” and “Mechanical Engineering”. Well, if Nigel Bennett’s ‘Managing Successful Projects in PRINCE2’ and Rogers and Mayhew’s ‘Thermodynamic and Transport Properties of Fluids’, the respective category bestsellers that week, gets some members of the UK public hot under the collar, then who am I to disagree.

According to Nielsen Books & Consumers data, approximately 20% of all books bought in the UK were gifts for others in 2020. Of that 20%, 60% were gifts bought for Christmas or a Birthday, with Valentine’s Day ranking between Father’s Day (more importance) and Mother’s Day (less importance) in terms of sales.

Interestingly, the number of books bought as gifts for no special occasion outnumbered the number of books bought as gifts for Valentine’s Day by 50 to one in 2020, and even out-ranked sales of books bought as gifts for birthdays. It is comforting to think that many people buy books for others as a gesture of love throughout the year, not just for one day in February.

Data extracted from the BookScan UK Total Consumer Market (TCM) and Books & Consumers monthly survey. For more information, please contact