Bumper sales of Irish authors boost Waterstone’s

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

Figures filed with the Companies' Office show that Waterstone’s Booksellers Ireland recorded an operating profit of €302,000 in the 12 months to the end of Apr 30 last.

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

Maeve Binchy’s Minding Frankie, Emma Donoghue’s award-winning Room, Marian Keyes’s The Brightest Star in the Sky and Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals were some of the bestselling books during the period.

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

The directors say the reason for the drop in revenues was the closure of two stores in 2011, while the remaining stores, including its flagship Hodges & Figgis store on Dublin’s Dawson St, “recorded a like for like decline of only 3.6%, 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 UK-based Waterstone’s group was acquired by Russian billionaire businessman Alexander Mamut’s A&NN Capital Fund Management from HMV for £53m 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 closure of two of Waterstone’s 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.

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