Blackwell’s losses deepened in its last financial year, with the move of one of its flagship campus shops in Manchester to a temporary venue a contributing factor. However, investment in its stores and an increase in e-textbook sales have lead to a 10% growth more recently, the company said.
In the year to 25th June 2016, Blackwell’s recorded a loss of £2.9m on a total turnover of £43.3m on its continuing business, down from £2.2m on sales of £45.8m in the 52 weeks to 27th June 2015 (excluding the closure of its library services US contracts in the prior year).
The company has been hit by a key campus bookshop serving Manchester University moving into temporary accommodation whilst the university undertakes an extensive redevelopment programme. Blackwell’s is also still counting the revenue loss from the closure of its Charing Cross Road branch in London 2014, although it opened a new store in nearby Holborn.
Stripping out sales from its Manchester branch, the company said revenue in the year to June 2016 were flat on a like-for-like basis.
Blackwell's 2016 results also reflect the buy-in elements of its agreement to complete an all risks buy-in of their defined benefit pension scheme with the Pension Insurance Corporation, reported earlier this month, which will bring it one step forward to its goal of becoming an employee-owned partnership.
However, in the current year to date, Blackwell’s said sales had improved significantly, up 10% after it had continued to invest in its shop portfolio, refitting a number of its existing premises. In September the retailer launched two new “enhanced” concept stores and introduced a competitive price-match offer in a bid to combat the “pressured” academic bookshop model.
The company has also invested in its e-commerce site, distribution capabilities and grown its London-based Blackwell Learning team. With digital resources being used more widely in UK Higher Education, the company has struck a number of partnerships with universities for students to use it e-textbook platform, and sales are up 249% year on year, it said.
Commenting on the results, David Prescott, Blackwell’s chief executive, said: “2016 was always going to be a challenging year for Blackwell’s due to the changes affecting our Manchester flagship. Regardless, we continued to focus on building a sustainable future through ongoing investment in shops, digital and online; maintaining a strong focus on the needs of our core customer groups and developing strong partnerships with our key academic institutions.
“That investment has served us well, providing the platform from which we have been able to start to deliver real and significant sales growth in the current financial year.”
In November last year the company also hired former CPM head of marketing and digital Dean Drew to the newly-created role of sales and marketing director following a restructure of the bookseller’s senior management team.