Kerridge and Rowling help Bloomsbury achieve 'exceptional year'

Kerridge and Rowling help Bloomsbury achieve 'exceptional year'

Bloomsbury’s total revenues soared by 13% in 2017 while its profit grew 10% in an "exceptional year" for the publisher, boosted by particularly strong performances from titles by J K Rowling and TV chef Tom Kerridge. Meanwhile the company has announced that executive director Richard Charkin is to step down from the board, though he will continue to work for Bloomsbury as a consultant.

Bloomsbury's financial results for the year ending 28th February 2018 show that both the publisher's consumer and non-consumer divisions grew, resulting in total group revenues 13% up on last year - from £142.6m to  £161.5m - with this year’s performance said to be “well ahead of previous expectations”.

Group profit before tax and highlighted items increased 10% to £13.2m from £12m in the year, boosted by strong digital growth, up 20% year on year bringing in £4.7 million in revenue.

Cookery and children’s titles particularly spurred the publisher's revenue growth, with Kerridge's Lose Weight for Good a “notable standout” along with Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which marked its 20th anniversary last year, seeing sales soar by almost a third (31%).

Children’s revenue increased by almost a quarter (24%) from £55.9m to £69.2m, helped by key publications including an illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and a House edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, released to mark the boy wizard’s 20th anniversary lat year on 26th June. Excluding Harry Potter, the children’s sales grew 14% with particularly strong sales of Sarah J Maas titles including A Court of Wings and Ruin ,with other highlights coming from Kid Normal by Greg James and Chris Smith and Kate Pankhurst's Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World.

In the adult division, Kerridge’s “extraordinary seller” Lose Weight for Good helped revenue increase by 12% from £29.5m to £33.1m. It spent four weeks as the overall number one on UK Nielsen Bookscan and sold the most copies in a week in January since Nielsen Bookscan records began. George Saunders' Man Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo was also singled out in the results as having achieved 28 recommendations as being the Book of the Year, while Anne Patchett’s Commonwealth was the division’s bestselling paperback. Bloomsbury’s crime and thriller imprint Raven Books has published five titles since launching last year with flagship debut novel The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell selling well, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the non-consumer division saw revenues grow by 4% from £57.2m to £59.3m. The division, which consists of academic and professional, special interest and content services, saw revenues increase slightly by 4% from £57.2m to £59.3m. Adjusted operating profits were considerably down from £2.6m to £1.7m due to ongoing investment in Bloomsbury's 2020 initiative. This scheme was launched in 2016 and is now known as 'Bloomsbury Digital Resources', aimimg to position the company as a leading non-consumer publisher in the B2B academic and professional information market and advance the growth of digital revenues.

Academic and professional revenues were 1% lower than last year due to the “strong number of rights deals in 2016/17 and a print market decline in the UK Education sector, which makes up 4% of the divisions revenues”.

Bloomsbury’s board believes the group’s performance will be “will be well ahead of our previous expectations” over the next year. The company plans to launch five further major digital resources as well enhancing existing strands with recently announcing partnerships with the British Film Institute and Spotify expected to add value. There will also be an expected extra £0.3 million profit contribution from the acquisition of publisher I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, bought for £5.8 million last month.

The firm also revealed that executive director Richard Charkin will step down from the board, with his executive responsibilities slated to finish at the end of this month, though he will continue to work for the company as a consultant on various strategic projects including Bloomsbury China, which he initiated. Charkin launched his career on the science list at George Harrap and Company, before moving to Pergamon Press, the Oxford University Press. He started at Bloomsbury in 2007 as executive director although in 2016 it was announced he would drop down to two days a week at the publishing house from February 2017.

Chief executive Nigel Newton (pictured) paid tribute to Charkin in his statement, saying: "I would like to thank Richard for his incomparable contribution to Bloomsbury over the last 11 years. We would not be the company we are today without him. I look forward to working with him on big projects in his new role for us."

Meanwhile Newton described it as an “exceptional year” for the company.

"I am delighted with the performance of our business over the last 12 months,” Newton said. “It has been a great year that has put Bloomsbury in a very strong and exciting position. We have seen significant progress in both segments of our business."

He added: “In non-consumer, our academic and professional division continues to benefit from the Bloomsbury 2020 strategic growth initiative as we look to accelerate digital revenues significantly and become a leading publisher in the B2B academic and professional market."

Going forward, the publisher has planned several initiatives under its “Bigger Bloomsbury” strategy. These involve growing the profits of the adult and academic and professional division, accelerating growth of Bloomsbury’s sales in the US, Australia and India and developing Bloomsbury China.

It also plans to increase its focus on its nine biggest “assets” -  Harry Potter, Sarah J Mass, Tom Kerridge and the lead title in each division from both the US and UK editorial lists to “boost front list and back list performance”, and it also plans to  roll out globally efficiencies already made in the UK business.

“Bigger Bloomsbury marks the next exciting step in our growth, focusing on our key growth drivers with targeted strategies across the business to help grow our revenues and improve our margins over the next five years," Newton said.