Bloomsbury profits jump as ‘joy of reading rediscovered’ in lockdown
Harry Potter publisher issues third profit upgrade of 2021 after sales increase to £185m
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Last modified on Wed 2 Jun 2021 04.29 EDT
Lockdown reading has helped the Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury to its third profit upgrade of the year after a 22% surge in annual pre-tax profits.
The company said people had “rediscovered the joy of reading” during the coronavirus pandemic, pushing its sales 14% higher to £185m in the 12 months to the end of February.
Bloomsbury performed significantly better than the wider UK publishing market, which recorded a 2% rise in sales during 2020, according to data from the Publishers Association.
The publisher said fantasy, escapism, social inclusion and cookery all sold well during the pandemic.
New bestsellers included two books by the American fantasy author Sarah J Maas about female warriors, including A Court of Silver Flames, as well as the fantasy novel Piranesi by the British author Susanna Clarke.
Other bestsellers included Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Humankind by Rutger Bregman.
The Harry Potter books by JK Rowling continue to attract new readers, almost a quarter of a century after their first publication. Bloomsbury said sales of the series about the boy wizard rose 7% during the past year.
The pandemic reignited many people’s interest in reading, said Bloomsbury’s chief executive, Nigel Newton, and he expects this to continue even as lockdown restrictions ease.
“People have developed a new habit and one where they have rediscovered the joy of reading, and will cling on to that even as the clamour of other ways of spending their time re-emerge,” Newton said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He added that sales in bookshops had been strong since non-essential retail was allowed to reopen in England in April.
“The reopening of bookshops on 12 April has been a complete gamechanger and what we have seen in the period since then is the combined success of online and digital sales and high street sales around the world,” Newton said.
Bloomsbury expects demand for books to continue and has forecast higher than expected sales and profits for the rest of the year.
The business has also benefited from the success of its academic division, including digital resources, which it publishes for universities offering online learning to their students. Newton said the company had decided to invest heavily in publishing digital resources six years ago.
“The moment has come when many universities switched to remote teaching and I understand many will continue to deliver lectures online in the next academic year,” Newton said.
After its profit upgrades, Bloomsbury has proposed a 10% increase to its final dividend paid to shareholders, as well as a special dividend.
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