"Encouraging" trend for Waterstone's, as sales decline slows

<p>Waterstone&#39;s managing director Dominic Myers has described its fourth quarter performance as &quot;encouraging&quot;, as like-for-like sales declined by 4.8%. The result shows that the rate of decline has slowed since Myers&#39; took over as m.d. in January, with Waterstone&#39;s outperforming the Total Consumer Market over the period.</p><p>The company&#39;s market share &quot;was going in the right direction&quot;, Myers said, singling out fiction as a key area for the retailer in the 16 weeks to 24th April. Total sales fell by 4.3% during the same period. The performance is ahead of the Total Consumer Market, as measured by Nielsen BookScan, which has dropped 6.3%. Parent HMV Group described the result as an &quot;improved trend&quot; that came despite the harsh weather at the beginning of the year.</p><p>For the year to 24th April, sales at Waterstone&#39;s fell by 6.2% on a like-for-like basis and 6% on a total basis. While its last trading statement, for the 10 weeks to 2nd January, showed that like-for-like sales fell by 8.9%. The full-year result means Waterstone&#39;s will report sales of about &pound;515m, when its preliminary results are issued in June, down from &pound;548.3m a year earlier.</p><p>Myers, who came in a m.d. in January following the departure of Gerry Johnson, said: &quot;Some of the initiatives that we have been bringing into play have been coming into effect during the middle and end of the quarter. I&#39;m pleased with the start that we have made and some of the initiatives starting to show benefit. I&#39;m looking forward to seeing a full year with all of those initiatives contributing.&quot;</p><p>Improving availability of titles had been a key aspect of this, according to Myers, and he said non-fiction titles had performed well, despite a difficult wider non-fiction market. He added: &quot;The overriding and most encouraging thing have been from a people point of view as we have had encouragement from booksellers about the agenda we have laid out. It has been received very well and booksellers are actively working to deliver that new vision.&quot;</p><p>Myers explained the current book market was difficult, and had been affected by poor weather at the beginning of the quarter and good weather towards the end of it. </p><p>&quot;The prospects for the book market are quite unclear and we are cautious about our outlook,&quot; he added. &quot;I&#39;m interested in the outcome of the election and how that will affect the pound in people&#39;s pockets. But from a Waterstone&#39;s perspective we have made a good start to our new strategy.&quot;</p><p>HMV&#39;s UK and Ireland business&#39; like-for-like sales fell 13.2% for the 16 week period and by 8.2% in total. Total group sales, including its live music wing, fell by 5.8% during the 16 weeks but increased by 1.8% during the 52 week period.</p><p>HMV Group c.e.o. Simon Fox said: &quot;We are focused on progressing our new strategy laid out on 26 March 2010 to rapidly evolve HMV&#39;s product mix, grow the new HMV Live division and continue to turn around the performance at Waterstone&#39;s.&quot; He said the group&#39;s profit before tax would be in line with expectations, and comfortably ahead of last year. </p><p>&nbsp;</p>