April 7th, 2009
11:13 AM ET

Recession ignites sales of romance

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TRAVEL/03/24/24.paris/art.paris.kiss.gi.jpg]
Meghan Daum
Chicago Tribune

Amid the ceaseless reminders that the economy is in a persistent vegetative state, it's easy to forget that some industries and products are thriving. U.S. News & World Report, which recently released its list of "10 winners in the recession," says Hershey's chocolate increased earnings by more than 50 percent last quarter and the Burpee seed company has said it expects sales to increase by 25 percent this year (and this was before the first lady's organic-gardening initiative). McDonald's same-store sales were up 6.8 percent last month (thanks, no doubt, to value meal menus that can provide an entire day's worth of calories for a few dollars). Career development Web sites saw their traffic jump 20 percent from last year to this year, and résumé editors are apparently doing a brisk business, especially when it comes to the health-care, tourism and restaurant industries (finance, not so much).

But the most intriguing entry was the third item on U.S. News' list: bodice-ripper novels. Harlequin, still the biggest name in serial romances, saw a $3 million gain, year to year, in North American sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 (by contrast, book sales in the general marketplace are down slightly). It's so easy to poke fun at contemporary romance novels that there's really no sport in it. The plots, by definition, are formulaic; the prose manages to be at once overwrought and underdeveloped; the covers, well, they're where that famous, flaxen-haired slab of manhood named Fabio got his start. But romances have long dominated sales of mass-market paperbacks (which, in turn, dominate sales of books in general).


Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Pop Culture
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Isabel

    In the bodice-ripper novels there is always a happy ending. In times of crisis, people need something exciting and not too expensive!

    Two months ago I saw a survey in Brazil saying that sexshops (here) increased its sales by 40%. And those men prefer to buy equipment more durable than pay for a dinner or flowers

    April 7, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Perhaps the condom industry owes a thank you to the Harlequin book industry. I've read one or two bodice rippers and they are pretty silly. I didn't feel like I had escaped any place I wanted to be – the looney bin has never appealed to me.

    April 7, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  3. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    As Tina Turner would say, " What's love got to do with it; what's love but a second hand emotion.

    April 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm |