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Popular TikTok videos with 'BookTok' hashtag give book retailer Indigo a sales boost

A sign showing where Indigo plans to open a new store this fall is seen at the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J., on July 22, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Wong) A sign showing where Indigo plans to open a new store this fall is seen at the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J., on July 22, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Wong)

Canada's biggest bookstore chain is seeing rising sales thanks in part to an online community of TikTok users sharing videos reviewing and recommending books.

The viral videos with the hashtag .BookTok have attracted billions of views and are driving demand for books -- often older, backlisted titles -- benefitting book retailers and the publishing industry at large.

For Toronto-based Indigo Books and Music Inc., the .BookTok effect has ushered in a fresh sales boost after more than a year of grappling with pandemic restrictions and store closures.

"The popularity of reading on TikTok created a whole new level of reading excitement, particularly for teens, adding to an already strong performance in books," Indigo chief executive officer Heather Reisman said during a Friday conference call discussing the retailer's quarterly earnings.

The book and lifestyle retailer reported higher revenue and lower losses for its first quarter compared with the same period last year.

Craig Loudon, Indigo's chief financial officer, said the company's print business experienced strong demand, notably driven by a younger demographic and the impact of TikTok.

"This evolution of social commerce in the book space is exciting," he said during the call. "Not only does Indigo's market leadership position benefit from the organic user generated content on BookTok, it sparks a sales resurgence for many previously released titles."

In addition to introducing a "new demand lifecycle," Loudon said the backlist titles tend to have fewer promotions tied to them than new bestsellers, delivering stronger margins for the bookstore.

Indigo now has a page on its website dedicated books trending on .BookTok, saying "discover what books are most popular on TikTok and find your next read."

The company reported a revenue of $172 million for the three months ended July 3, up from $135 million in the same quarter last year.

Reisman said the 27 per cent revenue rebound reflects "the beginning of a welcomed recovery in retail."

The uptick in sales came despite protracted COVID-19 store closures in the quarter in Ontario, the chain's largest market, as well as sporadic closures and occupancy limits throughout the country.

Indigo's Ontario stores with an external entrance opened in mid-June, while its remaining locations in the province opened June 29 -- less than a week before the end of the company's first quarter.

"With meaningfully diminished COVID-19 restrictions across the company's retail network, we are seeing the positive impact of a full retail fleet in the early weeks of the 2nd quarter," Loudon said.

Indigo reported a net loss of $21.9 million this quarter, compared to a net loss of $31.6 million in the same quarter last year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug 13, 2021. Top Stories

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