Bloomsbury c.e.o. Nigel Newton has hailed an "outstanding" financial year and “record results”, with preliminary audited figures showing sales rose 14% and profits before tax rocketed 22% year on year in the 12 months to 28th February 2021.
These results are ahead of expectations and represent the third upgrade this year. Newton said the performances "demonstrate the strength and resilience of our strategy of publishing for both the general and academic market", adding "the popularity of reading has been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise very dark year".
He told The Bookseller that he expects growth to continue, despite the easing of restrictions, saying: "I think that the habit of reading has become re-ingrained in many people. It is a normal thing to do and is a big part of people’s childhoods and educations and young adult lives, and the fact that what we will be returning to is fundamentally different to what we left, that is to say a hybrid new form of working between home and the office, will, I think, continue the new opportunity that people found to make greater time for reading in their lives."
He said the publisher has an "ambitious organic growth plan" and hopes to build on this year's momentum by "having exactly the right books which people want to buy and to innovate and create new markets for new kinds of books at the same time." He added: "In terms of what people want we’ve been very lucky to publish Outdoor Cooking by Tom Kerridge in the last week, which looks like being a major bestseller as the good weather enables people to get outside and start barbecuing."
He said the publisher was also working hard to back booksellers and bookshops: "Being able to handle and browse books and receive recommendations from experienced booksellers and working hand in hand with booksellers is a key part of the next phase for us, and for the industry as a whole," he said.
Bloomsbury's full-year report shows profit before taxation grew by 22% to £19.2m, up from £15.7m the previous year. Overall, revenues increased by 14% to £185.1m, from £162.8m. The consumer division "delivered a stellar performance", with profit before tax up by 61% to £14.2m from £8.9m, and "excellent revenue growth" of 22% across the adult and children's divisions, to £118.3m.
Newton said the publisher's diverse consumer portfolio included both frontlist and backlist titles "which really struck a chord with readers throughout the pandemic on themes such as humanity, social inclusion, escapism, fantasy, cookery and baking." These included Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Lose Weight and Get Fit by Tom Kerridge and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Frontlist success came from new titles including Humankind by Rutger Bregman, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke and Outlawed by Anna North.
Children's trade revenue grew 26% to £74.6m (from £59.4m) and profit before taxation was up 42% to £10.4m (from £7.3m). The sales of Sarah J Maas' titles grew by 129% and Harry Potter sales grew by 7%.
In the non-consumer division, revenue nudged up 1% to £66.8m but profit before taxation decreased by 19.4% to £5.4m (from £6.7m). However, Bloomsbury Digital Resources achieved "phenomenal growth" of 49%, with £12.4m revenue, up from £8.3m and posting profit of £2.9m compared to £0.7m the year before. Newton said this put the publisher in a good position to "deliver further growth from the accelerated shift to digital learning, with a 73% increase in the number of academic customers during the year".
Since last year the publisher has expanded its non-consumer business through the acquisition of the Red Globe Press list for £3.7m. It is hoped this will accelerate the publisher’s digital growth and “significant presence in humanities and social sciences academic publishing".
Newton said “considering the ongoing momentum and strength of our business, Bloomsbury expects revenue to be ahead and profit to be comfortably ahead of market expectations for the year ending 28th February 2022.”
He added: “I would like to express my thanks to our staff, authors, illustrators, printers, distributors and suppliers for their outstanding work and profound resilience over the last year. Our ability to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions, together with the strength of our strategy supported by our strong financial position, has enabled Bloomsbury to emerge even stronger from this crisis and deliver this excellent performance.”