Shortly before 9pm local time on 05 December 2013, South African freedom fighter and post-apartheid President Nelson Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg. The international press both on and offline has been dedicated for the past 48 hours to commemorating the late Mr Mandela and e-commerce sales of books, DVDs and other media featuring or remembering the leader rose by over 800% in the 24 hours following his death.
Etailers’ long-tail sales strategies
Mandela’s famous autobiography “The Long Walk to Freedom”, released in 1995 following his release from prison after a 27 year jail term for his political beliefs and activities, details his life before and during his incarceration on Robben Island during South Africa’s oppressive apartheid regime. Sales of ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’ on Amazon rose so quickly and highly that the book is now sold out in the UK until more copies can be delivered to the e-commerce giant’s central warehouses next week.
Interest in, and sales of, Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s 2009 biographical sports film starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela, rose 701% in the hours following the South African leader’s death, marking 700 consecutive days inside the Amazon Top 100 DVD charts. Similar statistics for Amazon book and DVD sales pertaining to Mandela have been too reported from the US e-retailer this week, proving that international respect and mourning is the order of the day.
On December 9th, 4 days after Mandela’s death, his autobiography – in its various forms and republished editions – remains in the Top 10 of the Bestseller lists on both Amazon.co.uk and Play.com, and in the Top 50 for books on Amazon.com. Kindle e-book sales across the US and UK Amazon sites both soared, and ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’ currently sits at #31 and #22 respectively. Conversely, sales of Invictus, starring Oscar nominees Freeman and Matt Damon, have slowed, perhaps pertaining to the ease with which movies are available to stream online on demand. Searching “watch Invictus online free” offers up 64,900 results, and in the past 3 days the full movie has been uploaded onto Youtube on 46 separate occasions.
In the UK, Amazon has emerged as the go-to e-commerce site for Mandela related publishings despite offering his autobiography for £3 more than rivals Play.com, owned by Rakuten. New and used copies of the book are available from Amazon as sold by third party retailers for up to £143 delivered for those who cannot bear the seven day wait for the internet giant to receive their own re-order of the book, and signed copies are available from eBay US for up to $13,000.
Predominantly bricks-and-mortar bookseller Waterstones has not registered a noticeable spike in demand nor sales of Mandela’s book, and it does not make an appearance in the high street chain’s Top 100 Bestseller list, and 10 stores within a 10 mile radius of Matter Of Form’s Old Street office have healthy stock levels of the title. Whilst high stock availability is generally considered a bonus for a bookstore, the fact that online retailers have sold out of the same book in the wake of a well-publicised international event either reflects well on Waterstones’ forward inventory planning, or poorly on their retail popularity and pricing structure, further highlighting Amazon’s gain by focussing on inexpensive long tail items that produce high profit margins in events such as high profile deaths or interest surges.
“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.” – Nelson Mandela, 1994.