Waterstones more than doubles Irish profits

Further evidence that people's love affair with books is back on...

Waterstones more than doubles Irish profits

waterstones.com

Waterstones, which runs a branch in Cork and owns the iconic Hodges Figgis on Dublin's Dawson Street, more than doubled its Irish profits in its last financial year.

It recorded a pre-tax profit of €1.9 million here for the 12 months to the end of April 2016, according to newly-filed accounts seen by the Irish Times. That's up from the €712,000 it took in the previous 12 months.

The Waterstones chain, which is headquartered in London and has 275 stores in the UK, Ireland and continental Europe,, has now returned to profit for the first time since Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut bought the company from HMV in 2011.

Overall sales were up 4% to £409.1m (€479.79m). Pre-tax profits hit £9.9m (€11.61m), swinging back into the black following a £4.5m (€5.28m) loss.

Waterstones managing director James Daunt told the Bookseller that it plans to open stores "in the double digits" in 2017.

He said the profit was driven in part by "better standards of bookselling", a £9m investment to make stores "better, different, nicer", and a slowdown in the growth of ebook sales. 

Daunt revealed last year that the Cork shop was "doing amazingly good business", with double-digit growth in the previous set of results, while Hodges Figgis was among the group's top five performing stores with a "dramatic" sales increase.

He signalled then that Irish expansion could be in its plans, saying:

"We have hopes to expand but we don't have any specific sites in mind at the moment."

Picture by Jonathan Brady PA Wire/PA Images

Meanwhile, the return of Harry Potter and written efforts from Irish stars such as Graham Norton and Paul O'Connell made 2016 a banner year for book publishers in Ireland, as print sales surged to a five-year high.

Following years of decline, sales hit €131m, with the number of books sold up 9% to a value of €11m. Their individual value also rose 11%. The average book cost €12 last year, the most expensive average since 2007.

JK Rowling's latest Harry Potter title was the most popular book in the country – The Cursed Child sold 69,890 copies and took just over €1.3m, according to Nielsen. It was written with Limerick journalist Alan English.

Former Irish rugby international Paul O'Connell was the only other author to break the million mark, with The Battle memoir selling 66,738 copies and taking just under €1.25m.

Graham Norton's debut novel, Holding, sold 51,814 copies and took just under €620,000.

Six out of 10 local publishers enjoyed double-digit sales growth, with Hachette being the only company to record a dip its fortunes. Ebook sales remained flat.