Eason in sales strategy revamp as turnover falls 16pc to €313m
Bookseller and stationer Eason will next year embark on what is likely to be a significant revamp of its retailing business as it battles to lure more customers amid declining sales.
Results for the company seen by the Irish Independent reveal that Eason, which will be 125 years old in 2011, posted a €10.1m net loss in the 12 months to the end of January, largely as a result of its now abandoned foray into the British bookselling market.
That compared with a loss of €21.1m a year earlier, when the figure was hit by substantial non-cash impairments to the value of its property portfolio.
The accounts note that Eason has now written down the value of its properties, including its relatively new distribution centre in north Dublin, by almost 50pc since the beginning of 2008.
Group turnover at the retailer fell by 16.4pc in the latest financial period to €313.6m, although that's compared with a prior year's figure that included a large chunk of sales from its British Bookshops and Stationers business that it exited last year.
Turnover from continuing operations in the last fiscal period was €306.2m, including €113.1m from its joint distribution venture with Scottish firm Menzies.
Turnover at operations in the Republic of Ireland, which includes 28 company-owned stores as well as seven airport concessions acquired after rival Hughes & Hughes went into receivership earlier this year, and 16 franchise outlets, declined 5pc in the last financial year on a like-for-like basis.
In Northern Ireland, where Eason has 14 stores, retail sales fell 3pc due to store closures in 2008, but climbed 7pc on a like-for-like basis helped partly by the effects of cross-border shopping.
In an interview with today's Irish Independent, Eason managing director Conor Whelan conceded the current environment is challenging but maintained that the bookseller has largely managed to hold its ground amid declining retail sales.
He added that the group's core operations are profitable, with a combined operating profit of €2.4m from continuing retail operations and its joint venture.
That compared with a €20m operating loss from continuing operations the previous year.
Mr Whelan added that a major customer survey has been undertaken by the group and that Eason's product offering will be closely scrutinised in coming months.
That will lead to a sizeable decline in the number of magazine titles it carries in its stores and a number of new offerings. Some store makeovers are also planned.
Eason, which is over 50pc owned by five families, is also close to revealing a new chairman for the business, as well as other board appointments.
It is likely Eason will include individuals with strong retail backgrounds.