Bertrams returns to profit

Bertrams returns to profit

The Bertram Group Ltd has released it first Companies House accounts since the business was acquired by the private equity firm Aurelius. The accounts, which cover the period since its acquisition in February 2018 include wholesaler Bertram Books, online bookshop Wordery, and library supplier Dawson Books, show the group made sales of £190.4m and returned a profit of £1m.

Separate accounts posted for Bertram Books, including Dawson Books, for the 16 month period ending 31st December 2018, show the company reported an £8.5m profit, compared to a £15.8m loss in the year ending 2017, on sales of £249.6m. Within this Dawson reported sales of £26.3m, and made a loss of £139,000, much improved from the £3m loss it posted in 2017.

The Bertram Books business employed 459 people compared with 484 in the last accounts, and also secured a £6.2m loan from Aurelius Finance Company. The business also reversed an impairment loss of £12m made in 2017, resulting in £9.4m of exceptional income.

Wordery reported an increase in profit after tax of £1.4m for the 16 months ending 31st December 2018, compared to £1.2m for the year ended 31st August 2017, with sales of £79.6m (2017 year: £58.7m).

The results according to c.e.o. Raj Patel show the business is "now on sound financial footing to grow". Patel said the figures covered two peak trading periods and reflected a time of major change for the wholesaler following the sale to Aurelius for £6m.

Patel, who joined the firm earlier this summer, said: "2018 was a year of significant change within Bertram group of companies, following a period of losses in 2016 and 2017. The businesses were sold to Aurelius in February 2018, which saw the start of the business recovery programme and transformation. The business is now on sound financial footing to grow and reposition the seven brands which form the Bertram Group. I am delighted to be part of a vibrant supply chain of booksellers which has global reach, so that our customers can access any book, in any language and, in any country through our multiple distribution channels."

As previously reported by The Bookseller, under Patel, the wholesaler has sought to improve its warehousing, customer ordering and despatch process, with the introduction of a new Purchase To Pay (P2P) project.

The Companies House reports warn that the books market "remains challenging and whilst performance in wholesale markets is improving, the libraries sector continues to be challenging."

The reports add: "The general economic environment remains challenging with continued pressure on the UK high street. Demand for books however is seen to be relatively resilient compared with other impacts on discretionary consumer spending. This is further mitigated by the company strategy to target areas of market growth. It is however recognised that there will be continuing pressure on public spending which will be likely to have an ongoing impact on sales to public libraries."

Meanwhile, amid an uncertain economic environment in the UK and around the world, Wordery's strategy to increase sales by targeting growth sectors such as international sales remains, the company said.

The report for the Bertram Group adds the board has launched a three year strategic plan from 2019-2021 which will see the firm focus on speed of delivery, launch new market places for single and retail customers, creating new global wholesale partners and diversifying the product range to non-English book titles.

The group has also set up a Brexit task-force to prepare the company for "the worst case, which is considered, a no-deal scenario, where World Trade Organisation terms apply." The task-force assessed the impact on the supply chain, operations, commercial demand and services such as IT and finance. The task-force continues to monitor developments as Britain prepares to leave the EU on 31st October.