Tuesday 20 February 2018

Bestseller blitz helps push Waterstones back into the black

Gordon Deegan

Bumper sales of books by Marian Keyes, the late Maeve Binchy, Emma Donoghue and chef Jamie Oliver helped propel the Irish arm of bookseller Waterstones back to an operating profit last year.

New figures just filed with the Companies Office show that Waterstones Booksellers Ireland Ltd recorded an operating profit of €302,000 in the 12 months to the end of April 30 last.

The operating profit follows what directors describe as "a strong performance in a challenging market".

Binchy's 'Minding Frankie', Donoghue's award-winning 'Room', Keyes's 'The Brightest Star in the Sky' and Oliver's '30 Minute Meals' were some of the best-selling books during the period under review.

The accounts filed show that revenues at the Irish arm of the book chain decreased by 25.7pc from €19.8m to €14.7m last year.

However, the directors explain the reason for the drop in revenues was the closure of two stores in 2011 and the remaining stores that includes its flagship Hodges & Figgis store on Dublin's Dawson Street "recorded a like-for-like decline of only 3.6pc representing a strong performance in a challenging market".

The directors state that the underlying sales performance, together with tight management of margin and costs, delivered an operating profit before exceptional items of €300,000. This followed a break-even position on an operating basis the previous year.

The figures show that the firm recorded a pre-tax loss of €13,000 after exceptional costs of €578,000 relating to restructuring and pension scheme settlement costs and €263,000 in net finance revenue.

This follows the firm recording a pre-tax loss of €13m in 2011 that followed write-downs of €13.1m.

The UK-based Waterstones group was acquired by a vehicle of Russian billionaire businessman Alexander Mamut, A&NN Capital Fund Management Ltd, from HMV for £53m (€61m) on a debt- and cash-free basis in June 2011.

The figures show that the Irish firm's accumulated losses total €21.7m. Shareholder funds totalled €3m.

The directors list new methods of digital delivery as one of the risks faced by the firm.

The closure of two of Waterstones' outlets in 2011 resulted in its lease rentals last year declining from €2.3m to €1.6m.

The downsizing of the bookseller's Irish operation resulted in the numbers employed by the firm reducing from 136 to 91, with staff costs reducing from €3.6m to €2.6m.

The pre-tax loss last year takes account of €271,000 in non-cash depreciation costs.

Irish Independent

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