Irish chain retailer Eason has returned to profit after increasing sales by 9% to €147m (£126m) last year.
The bookseller made a profit of €1.2m (£1.03m) in the year to 31st January 2016, up from a loss of €2.7m (£2.32m) a year earlier, according to the company.
Eason m.d Conor Whelan (right) said the growth was down to a range of factors, including a strong Christmas trading period, an overall improving trading environment, delivering on its business strategy and sterling inflation.
The company also achieved a double-digit sales hike of 13% in its Northern Ireland territory, while sales through its e-commerce arm grew by 33%, now accounting for 5% of the business.
Whelan said: “2015 was another year of very positive progress and momentum for Eason and the first year in many years where books, news and stationery combined delivered positive growth in revenues. Whilst sterling inflation contributed significantly to growth during the year, this positive performance was primarily delivered through the ongoing delivery of our business strategy, strong trading during key periods such as Christmas and an overall improving trading environment.”
He added the company was “well placed” to capitalise on the improving operating environment and remained focused on implementing its business strategy.
The UK’s decision to Brexit would mean challenges in setting prices, he told The Irish Times, as 70% of the company’s book purchases are sterling-based, and the pound is very volatile at the moment. “Any impact on consumer confidence, disposable incomes or on Irish economic growth would also be bad,” he said. “It’s a level of uncertainty that we could do without but hopefully things will stabilise.”
EBITDA for the period was €7.0m (£6.0m) compared to €5.1m (£4.37m), a year earlier, a rise of 37%. Meanwhile, shareholder funds have also increased by €9.6m (£8.23m) during the year, reflecting ongoing improvement in the commercial property market in Ireland.
Eason has invested €3 (£2.57m) of €4m (£3.43m) on refurbishing its flagship O’Connell Street store in Dublin over five years. It has also launched a number of new retail concepts and categories in its stores, including a new Home & Leisure department and a Craftworks department.
Eason operates 63 stores, of which 35 are owned and 28 are franchises. In May Eason was named Ireland's “most reputable retailer”, according to Ireland RepTrak® 2016.