John Smith plans Africa expansion

John Smith plans Africa expansion

John Smith & Son has seen a like-for-like sales increase of 14.3% in the year 2011-12, led by its Aspire student bursary scheme and growth in Africa.

The Scotland-based academic bookseller has reported that overall group revenue dropped by 3% to £37.9m, but profits increased by 10% after tax to £186,573.

Like-for-like sales growth was 14.3%, with the UK showing a 12.4% growth in sales and Africa recording an 25.4% revenue increase. Sales growth was primarily led by the company's bursary facilitation service called Aspire; the universities of Bedfordshire, Bolton, Glasgow and West London signed up this financial year, bringing the total to eight including the University of East London, Anglia Ruskin University, University of Chester and Regents College, which already used the scheme.

In Africa, John Smith has partnered with University of Creative Technology in Botswana and recently opened at the Sunyani Polytechnic in Ghana.

Peter Gray, chief executive and chairman of John Smith, told The Bookseller the company planned to expand further into Africa, although would not reveal the locations. He said: "JS Group goes from strength to strength with a growing number of universities adopting Aspire. In the UK, this has meant we have delivered good organic growth and increased our market share despite difficult market conditions. In Africa, we have sustained excellent levels of growth and have recently entered into Ghana. Aspire and selective African market entry continue to be priority areas and growth drivers for the business." 

He added: "We have also seen double-digit growth in the sales of books in the year 2011-12 and continue to be strong this year."

During the 2011-12 year, John Smith's Hammicks Legal Information Services arm dropped sales by 18.8% due to the loss of a government contract which accounted for 44% of the department's revenue. Outside the government contract, revenues dropped by 6.5% in line with the market expenditure on print books, Gray said. To counter the loss this year, the firm has introduced new service to support law firms, such as Hammicks Library Management and Hammicks Audit Management.

"Hammicks Legal Information Services performed in line with our expectations and has made significant strides in repositioning itself as a value added reseller of legal content and a provider of software and services to information professionals in law firms," Gray said. He added that the company planned to open more shops in the UK over the next year.