Waterstones is on course to make a small profit this year but it is “all to play for” over the next few weeks, according to m.d James Daunt.
Daunt told The Bookseller he hoped the company would be in the black by January 2016 for the first time since he took over 2011, if the book market continued as it has done over the last few months.
He said: “Over the next few weeks we will know if we make a profit for the current year we are in, but that is certainly what we are looking to do. Should the market hold up the way it has been doing then we will, but we are entering the most important six weeks of the year and it is all to play for. If it all goes well we will be in the black and I hope it does all go well.”
He added: “We had a very, very good start to the year as you know so we are lining up for what we hope will be a very good Christmas. The books are good enough, but there are no surprise hits taking off at the moment, no easy wins. In the celebrity autobiographies there are no easy pickings. Jamie (Oliver) is selling stronger and so is Ian Rankin and so on.”
Daunt said he wasn’t concerned that the recent terror attacks in Paris would put customers off shopping in busy shopping centres and high streets in the run up to Christmas. “I don’t think we’ll see people staying away,” he said. “It would surprise me if that happened anywhere else except London. It might affect tourism, but tourism is a very small part of our business.”
Daunt was speaking to The Bookseller following a piece in The Guardian in which he said: “We are delivering a really robust and proper profit... a genuine, little small piece of black at last”.
While The Guardian piece said Waterstones was eyeing store opportunities in airports and train stations, hoping to compete with WH Smith, Daunt clarified that was not on the radar any time soon.
“I would love for Waterstones to go into airports but I feel that will be a long time coming, although St Pancras has done very well for us,” he said.
This weekend is set to be a bumper one in the run up to Christmas for retailers, with Black Friday on Friday (27th November), followed by Civilised Saturday, the Booksellers Association’s antidote to this, on Saturday (28th November).