Connect Books: sales drop but business 'stabilising'

Connect Books: sales drop but business 'stabilising'

Connect Books has delivered a “much improved” operational performance in the last six months, although sales were down 3% to £103.4m.

The Norwich-based company, which comprises Bertrams, Dawson Books and Wordery, also saw its underlying operational profit decrease by 18.6% to £1.9m compared to £2.3m in the first half of 2014.

Releasing its half-year results to 28th February 2015, The Connect Group, Connect Books’ parent company, said the new team in the Books division had made “good progress” in stabilising the business and there had been a “marked improvement” in performance since the second half of last year.The company also said it had confidence that the books division would further improve after addressing a range of operational and commercial opportunities. “The division has delivered a much improved operational performance compared to the second half of last year in what remain challenging conditions, stabilising the business and laying further foundations for a sustainable medium term recovery,” Connect said.

Meanwhile its online book retailer Wordery, co-owned by former Book Depository man Will Jones, has continued to grow revenue in the last six months, with annualized sales expected to hit £35m by the end of the year. The retailer trades on third party platforms such as Amazon and Ebay and the proportion of sales through its own online operation has now grown to 15% of total Wordery sales, according to Connect. The company added that Wordery achieved its first ever '£1m sales week' in December. “Wordery continues to grow impressively, growing by over 80% and continues to establish its own web presence to complement its position as a leading market place supplier,” Connect said. 

However, the company admitted the market was still complex, especially in the library supply sector. “The books market dynamics remain complex and continue to evolve in response to changing technology, consumer buying behaviour and, in the case of libraries, continued pressure on funding models,” it said.  “Over the last six months we have carefully assessed both our offer and the way in which we service our multiple customer bases. A range of opportunities for improvement is emerging which we will continue to review on a segment by segment basis.”

Overall Connect Group revenue was up 1.2% to £909.9m, with profit before tax up 0.2% to £24.1m.

The Bookseller reported last May that Bertrams had made 20 people redundant from its head office. Its m.d Graeme Underhill retired from the company at the end of 2014, replaced by new m.d Justin Adams.