Tuesday 20 March 2018

Eason books a €2.6m profit but warns over property tax

Tom Lyons

Eason, a bell-weather for books, newspapers and stationary sales in Ireland, has returned into the black with a profit of €2.6m after making a loss of €5.3m the previous year.

Group turnover fell by 8 per cent to €245m with retail turnover in the Republic, excluding its airport and internet business, down 5.9 per cent.

Eason's new e-commerce business grew by 145 per cent to €2.7m, but its airport sales fell by 36 per cent to €10m as airport footfall is now spread over two terminals and Eason has no stores in Terminal Two.

Eason will hold its annual general meeting for its 200-plus shareholders on June 25. Managing director Conor Whelan is up for re-election at this meeting, where he will outline the improved financial performance of the group.

Previous meetings have been marked by some shareholder friction, but this eased after four new directors were appointed to the board of Eason, including former managing director Gordon Bolton.

Whelan reduced costs by €6.1m in July 2012 through staff reductions and closing underperforming shops. Further savings are planned, as is investment in revamping stores. Eason's franchise operations opened three new stores during the year.

The group has also taken over three former Hughes & Hughes stores and will open three more franchises this year.

In a note to shareholders, chairman James Osborne blamed austerity and the property tax for dampening consumer confidence. He said the outlook for the retail sector remained "very challenging".

"At best, consumer spending will be flat in 2013 and is anticipated to increase only modestly next year," Osborne, a former chairman of Independent News & Media, said.

Eason's strong balance sheet saw shareholders' funds reduced by €4.8m during the year to €66m, relating to the group's pension fund as well as property asset devaluation. Eason also said it had commissioned a review of the company's corporate structure and this process is ongoing.

Irish Independent

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