Blackwell’s is seeing rapid revenue growth spurred on by its multi-channel strategy, with like-for-like sales up 12% to £48.3m for the year to June 2017.
The sales momentum has continued this year, with revenue up 20% for the six months from July 2017, the company revealed.
All four of the firm’s main business areas – it’s flagship shops, campus shops (totalling 32 altogether), corporate support businesses and e-commerce arm - saw growth, but online revenue accelerated the most, chief executive David Prescott told The Bookseller. “We are moving the business towards a multi-channel approach and have invested in e-commerce. We are trying to remove the barriers between the shops and online and tell customers that however they want to shop with us, they are a Blackwell’s customer,” he said. “These levels of growth make Blackwell’s one of the UK’s fastest growing book businesses.”
Despite the revenue gains, the company still made a £2.9m loss for the year to 24th June 2017, though this had recovered slightly from a year earlier when it reported a loss of £3.3m. As the bookseller’s sales continue to grow, the retailer hopes to recover losses even further this year, and its profits from July to the end of December 2017 were up by 85%, the equivalent of £900,000, Prescott said. When the privately-owned firm is returning a steady profit, it still plans to become an employee partnership.
“The strong top line growth was largely attributable to Blackwell’s expanding online operations, together with solid results from its retail portfolio of academic and flagship shops,” Prescott said. “All shops reported positive contributions during the year. The company’s Corporate, Professional and Institutional business also continues to grow with Blackwell’s successfully retaining its position as a preferred book supplier to both the NHS and Joint Consortia of Higher Education Libraries following re-tenders for both contracts.”
He added: “Our commitment to a fully multi-channel strategy is designed to lead Blackwell’s towards an improved trading contribution over the next year and closer to the goal of sustainable profitability and ultimately an employee partnership.”
The company’s new-concept shops in Cardiff, Nottingham and Liverpool are performing profitably, with Prescott saying the “academic store for the future” seemed “to be working”. The company also opened a new flagship store in Westgate Centre in Oxford in October last year.
The losses also reflect the successful all risks buy-out of the Blackwell’s defined benefit pension scheme and ongoing investment in the business’s shop portfolio and e-commerce platforms.