Sales drop in 'difficult' market at Waterstone's

<p>Waterstone&#39;s managing director Gerry Johnson has described the retail market as &quot;difficult&quot;, after reporting a sales drop over the past year of 3.8%, but he maintained that the business was in a strong position to recover.<br /><br />In its latest set of financial results, Waterstone&#39;s reported that in the year to 25th April, both total and like-for-like sales fell by 3.8%, with full-year sales now likely to be about &pound;543m, compared with &pound;564.3m a year earlier.<br /><br />In the 16 weeks to 25th April total sales at the book retailer fell by 3.4% and by 4.5% on a like-for-like basis. Johnson told <em>The Bookseller</em>: &quot;It&#39;s a difficult market and we performed as well as we could in that. I&#39;m pleased with the high street performance and Waterstones.com grew very strongly. In the last 16 weeks, it grew by 70% and is just below 5% of total sales.&quot;</p><p>Waterstone&#39;s parent company HMV Group reported a decline in like-for-like sales growth of 0.4% but total sales growth of 2.4%. HMV UK and Ireland reported a like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% and total sales growth of 6.3% in the full-year.&nbsp;</p><p>He added: &quot;It&#39;s always disappointing to have sales fall but that&#39;s a reflection of how the wider market has fallen. It&#39;s there for all to see. For us the important thing is to ensure our performance is stronger than our competitors by making sure our service is the best. The business is in a strong place. Books are not immune from the recession but they are safer than other areas. The market will return to growth and when it does, we will be well placed to take advantage.&quot;<br /><br />Johnson said that margins were broadly flat year-on-year. He refused to comment on the redundancies at the retailer despite staff being informed of redundancies at their stores this week. When pressed, he said: &quot;The consultation hasn&#39;t finished. I accept that individual conversations are taking place but it&#39;s important that we talk to each person affected. I&#39;m particularly pleased with how the store managers have performed to see how we can best minimise redundancies. Until it&#39;s completed and we have spoken to the national representatives, I&#39;m not in a position to comment.&quot;<br /><br />More detail about the redundancies is expected to emerge later this week.</p><p>One hundred stores and Waterstones.com are now being supplied by its new distribution centre. <a href="../news/62072-waterstones-to-phase-in-hub.html" target="_blank" title="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/62072-waterstones-to-phase-in-hub.html... said last year that the hub would be fully operational by the end of April</a>. He accepted there had been problems with the initial roll-out but added the purpose of the pilot scheme was to test any potential problems. He said: &quot;Starting full implementation in week one or week three is less important than ensuring all stores are on the system and it works properly.&quot; </p>