Costco to Stop Selling Books Year-round

Costco plans to stop selling books regularly at its stores around the U.S. beginning in January 2025, the New York Times reported, citing four publishing executives who had been informed of the warehouse retailer's plans. The company will instead sell books only during the holiday shopping period, from September through December. 

During the rest of the year, some books may be sold at Costco stores occasionally, but not in a consistent manner, according to the executives, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss a confidential business matter that has not yet been publicly announced, the Times noted.

The company's shift away from books is due in large part to the labor required to stock them, the executives said, noting both the constant turnaround of books and the fact that copies have to be laid out by hand instead of rolled out on a pallet as other products often are at Costco. 

The decision "could be a significant setback for publishers at a moment when the industry is facing stagnant print sales and publishing houses are struggling to find ways to reach customers who have migrated online," the Times wrote, adding that while the retailer isn't as critical to the book trade as bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, "it has provided a way for people who might not otherwise seek out books to see them.... Shoppers could also browse books at Costco in a way that is difficult to do online."

Costco had already stopped selling books in some markets, including Alaska and Hawaii. The Times reported that the retailer's impact also comes from the size of its orders because "when Costco decided to stock a book, it often went big, ordering tens of thousands of copies at a minimum. For major blockbusters, they might stock hundreds of thousands of copies of a single title."

The change may also impact Costco's customers, particularly those who live in areas without a bookstore, the Times added, noting that "because many books at Costco were impulse buys, some of those sales may not shift over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Instead, they might not happen at all."

In recent years, Costco has noticeably cut back on its book inventory. Pennie Clark Ianniciello, who retired in 2021 after 32 years with Costco, was the longtime book buyer and a major force in the book business. Her "Pennie's Picks" column, which appeared in Costco Connection, the monthly magazine that goes to many Costco members, often dramatically boosted sales of highlighted books.

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