Hachette reports "stand-out month" in September

Hachette reports "stand-out month" in September

The publication of J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy and e-book sales growth helped Hachette UK record a "stand-out month" in September, leading to strong third-quarter sales at the publishing business.

Hachette's parent company Lagardere reported a marginal drop in net sales in its third quarter results to end-September 2012, down 0.4% to €2bn on a like-for-like basis, with Lagardere Publishing reporting net sales up to €626m for the third quarter, a 0.1% rise on a like-for-like basis. For the nine months to 30th September 2012, Lagardere Publishing's net sales were reported as €1.5bn, up 2% thanks to movements in foreign exchange rates, but down 1.4% on a like-for-like comparison.

The company attributed this to a "solid performance by General Literature", and the success of The Casual Vacancy, which it published in English and French. However, the French group said the "stellar" performance of General Literature was somewhat "mitigated by the slowdown seen in Education across all markets (France, Spain and the United Kingdom)". General Literature sales rose by 17% in the UK and 7.3% in the US, with the media company again attributing that to the publication of The Casual Vacancy in both markets, and a "generally strong schedule of new releases in the United Kingdom".

Hachette UK c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson said HUK's "strong summer and outstanding September, when the group was above budget and considerably ahead of September 2011, contributed to a strong third quarter". Hely Hutchinson said ongoing sales of print and e-book editions of The Casual Vacancy were "continuing to exceed expectations".

Meanwhile, e-books accounted for 20% of total third-quarter adult trade book sales in the UK, and 20% in the US, representing 6.4% of total net sales in the Lagardere Publishing division. This mix was actually down on the first half, when digital accounted for 8.4%, and for 27% and 23% respectively of adult trade sales in the US and UK. Lagardere said the relative decline in the e-books proportion compared to the first half was down "to timing differences between the recognition of physical book sales and digital sales, regarding mainly J K Rowling's book copies". HUK added that the percentages of e-books versus print books would tend to be higher in the first half because gift purchases, which are almost always print, are a larger proportion of the whole market in the second half.

In a separate statement, HUK said it recorded its "highest ever digital sales in September", up 125% on September 2011, with the top 20 e-book titles broadly reflecting the print bestseller lists and perennial bestselling series including Twilight.

Hely Hutchinson pointed to books such as Martina Cole's The Life (Headline), Antony Beevor's The Second World War (W&N), A Street Cat Named Bob (H&S), The Hairy Dieters (Orion) and Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course (H&S) as third quarter highlights.

He added: "Because our publishing this year is so strong, my prediction in January that this would be an exceptionally good year for the group is coming true. September was a stand out month, not least thanks to Little, Brown's brilliant publication of The Casual Vacancy, but also to very successful fiction and non-fiction programmes from all Hachette UK publishers."

He pointed to titles by authors including Maeve Binchy, Ian Rankin, Patricia Cornwell, Kate Mosse, Michael Connelly, Simon Scarrow and John Grisham as likely to do well in the final quarter, with non-fiction highlights set to include books by Miranda Hart, Jessica Ennis, Sebastian Coe, Michael Palin and The John Lennon Letters. He said: "We anticipate a very good run to Christmas from all lists and across all formats."