Nielsen BookScan needs YOUR data!

This time last month I queried the usefulness of STL’s monthly Core Stock recommendations, and I’m disappointed to have received no response from them: my requests and challenge to STL remain open.

Amongst my observations I wrote:

… all that STL’s warehouse sales data can tell us is what’s going into the shops they supply. It can’t tell us what’s going out: it can’t tell us what our own and our fellow retailers’ customers are buying; and it can’t tell us what ends up stuck on retailers’ shelves, languishing quietly until the only thing that shifts it is a drastic price cut, probably to less than we bought it in for.

Nielsen LogoThe thing that can tell us that is Nielsen Bookscan, and we urgently need more Christian retailers to supply their sales data to Nielsen. Every month Christian Marketplace provides us with a bestseller chart taken from Nielsen’s data — but how many of us are contributing to that? Until we reach the point where it’s most of us, we’re inevitably — to steal St Paul’s phrase — “seeing through a glass darkly”, just seeing a part-picture.

If you’re not contributing data, why not? If you are, please tell us something of your story: was it easy or difficult to set up? Has it caused any problems or brought any benefits?

I’m delighted, therefore, to have received the response below from Nielsen BookScan; thanks to Sara Mulryan for this:


As Nielsen BookScan, we’d like to add to Phil Groom’s comments that – if you are not participating – why not?

Nielsen BookScan is the definitive market measure for the book industry.  Only participating retailers are eligible to receive data and that data is a weekly Top 5,000 Total Consumer Market (TCM) titles – FREE.  The data can be analysed in a variety of ways, including verifying best selling titles by categories –  such as Religion or Mind, Body, Spirit.  From this you can build up a core stock list. 

Data must be sent from your scanned EPOS till systems on a regular schedule (simply put, a copy of your day end transactions) and all individual retailer data is held in total confidence. It is best selling market titles that are released.  Where public opinion polls are often based on a poll of less than 0.01% of the population, BookScan data is not just a sample of sales taken from a few outlets then multiplied up to create a guesstimate – it is the actual sales, from over 90% of all retail book purchases made in the UK.  Make yours count.

St Andrew’s and Wesley Owen are both participants, as well as some religious Independents. As outlined by Phil, the more who contribute, the more relevant to your needs the data is.  We welcome inquiries from each and every independent bookseller and hope to hear from you soon.

Any further queries should be addressed to the BookScan Retail Team:


At LST we’ve been submitting our sales data since 2004. I wrote about the experience of setting up the LST Bookshop database for that in Christian Marketplace back in 2004. Ours is a custom-built Filemaker Pro EPoS system running in Mac OS X, something of an anomaly for Nielsen who were more used to shops running Windows based commercial systems, but it all proved quite painless and straightforward.

If you’re running any of the standard packages you should have no problems at all… and you’ll have access to all that wonderful data direct from the tills of your fellow retailers: no more guesswork based on STL’s limited and screened data on what’s leaving their warehouse…

To close, another question for STL now: how do you decide which publishers you’re going to feature each month? Is the decision based on whose products are selling the most? Or are there other criteria? Please do tell: thank you.

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9 thoughts on “Nielsen BookScan needs YOUR data!

  1. I did try to do something last August with Phil Mead of Nielsen but it didn’t come to anything. My Synergi system records daily sales but can only export them out of the programme into excel by month or by year. I had thought he might be interested in the month totals to give background but he wasn’t.
    i think it is something on the Synergi wish list

  2. Thanks for this, Geoff. Sounds like a major reason to find an alternative system to me: if Synergi is not capable of daily outputs to BookScan perhaps this is one of the reasons so few Christian bookshops are contributing data?

    Yet this begs the question, what system are Wesley Owen using, since we know that they are contributing data? Is it a customised version of Synergi? If so, why has this version not been made available to independents?

    I’ve invited Wayne Johnston at STL and Sara Mulryan from Nielsen to comment…

  3. Hi Phil
    Exporting data to Nielsen is only one small aspect of a stock control programme for an independant shop. Synergi ticks so many other boxes for me that it would not be a reason for me to change systems. Having looked at other systems in some detail I remain unconvinced of the need to change and pound for pound it is in a league of its own for value.

  4. Thanks Geoff. Maybe it’s because I came into bookselling from the secular marketplace, where we had to keep track of the bestsellers to make sure we kept ahead of WHS just a few doors down, but to me a stock control system that doesn’t work with an essential service like BookScan really does seem half-baked… yes, it’s one small aspect: but a vital one, I’d say.

    I’m astonished that it can’t be dealt with by some sort of add-on or plug-in…

  5. An observation on submitting information to Nielsen. We submit figures via the Merlio system, which is straightforward enough. However, it’s a bit like sending the data into a black hole! We don’t receive any acknowledgement of receipt, or processing, or thanks- even an automated one would be nice! We have , of course, passed this feedback onto Neilsen,but with no action. I can’t say it fills me with confidence that our figures eventually arrive in the right place. Something to think about?

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  7. i am the the author of a book called “the golden virtues of jesus christ” but i am lost. i have no sure way of knowing if the book have made any sales.could you help.

    • Your publisher should be able to provide that data, Karl; but you’ve sold at least 3 copies, since that’s how many used copies are available from amazon

      On a more practical note, remember that every comment you leave about the book on sites such as this gives prospective buyers an impression of what to expect from it: typing all in lower case with poor grammar and punctuation is unlikely to help your PR, unfortunately…

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