‘Tis the season for flowers, chocolates and books

In 2021, 15% of books bought in the UK were intended as gifts for special occasions, with Christmas and birthday gifts making up the majority of that. But spring does bring a slight boost to the gifting market, first in celebration of Mother’s Day and then in the lead-up to Easter; apart from the final quarter of the year, March is on average the top month for UK consumers buying books for others. While these two occasions only added up to 0.5% of overall purchases for the latest year, that does equate to a not insignificant 1.9m books, and nearly 15m books over the last ten years. Easter makes a larger contribution generally, at 0.4% overall and rising to 0.8% of children’s books, while Mother’s Day has held steady at 0.1% each year, increasing to 0.3% of books bought for women over 25 as the end user.

The share will vary on a genre level of course, given the difference in recipients, with Mother’s Day taking its highest share for sagas and cookery and Easter for activity and picture books. Fiction overall accounts for nearly half of Mother’s Day gifts, while four in five books bought for Easter are children’s books (and half of Easter gifts are the aforementioned picture and activity books).

Looking at recipients in more detail, two-thirds of Mother’s Day gifts are bought for age 45+, with that spread evenly across 45-54s, 55-64s, 65-74s and 75+. As you might guess, buying for one’s own mother is most popular, at 58%, but spouses/partners, other relatives and friends also have a hand in celebrating mums with books. Switching to Easter, over a third of gifts have been bought by parents over the last ten years, followed by 22% bought by grandparents and 15% by aunts/uncles. The youngest children are most likely to receive these books, at 31% bought for 0-2s with another 31% bought for children aged 3-6.

The differences in the recipient and the type of book influence how consumers generally shop for these gifts. Aside from the obvious ‘discovered/bought the book because the person would like it/requested it’, Easter gifts are more likely than average to be discovered via physical shops, whether browsing or seeing in the window, and chosen because of the front cover and low prices/offers. The largest portion of purchases stems from the consumer setting out to buy a book but not sure ahead of time which one, as shown below, followed by completely impulsive purchases, so happenstance as well as visual aspects (whether the book itself or where it’s positioned) are key. The Easter-related books filling the top of the children’s chart in recent weeks include ‘Supertato: The Great Eggscape!’ and ‘Five Little Easter Bunnies’.

On the other hand, Mother’s Day purchases are more likely to be completely planned – deciding to buy a specific book at a set time. While browsing can still have an impact, with a quarter of purchases attributed to wanting to buy a book but not having a specific one in mind, buyers are more likely than average to be already familiar with the book they end up buying, through things like bestseller lists, film/tv adaptations, author interviews and book prizes. Broadly speaking, whether the book is chosen before the shopping trip or during, Mother’s Day gifts are more reliant on a solid track record and general popularity – as evidenced by the author who has racked up the most Mother’s Day purchases over the past ten years, Mary Berry. And Mother’s Day 2022 will have surely added to that further, with her latest ‘Love to Cook’ jumping more than 400 spots in the bestseller chart in the week ending 26 March.

Based on data from the Books & Consumers survey, covering 2012 to 2021, and the BookScan Total Consumer Market (TCM) to 26 March 2022. For more information, please contact