Bloomsbury, the Harry Potter publisher, has unveiled record sales and profits on the back of the popularity of titles including Tom Kerridge’s latest cookbook during the coronavirus pandemic despite supply chain problems.
The company said the increase in reading had continued, as people “rediscovered the joy of reading”, with fantasy, escapism, social inclusion and cookery selling well.
It said its revenues for the six months to the end of August were also boosted by customers ordering earlier than in previous years. Book sales, along with many other consumer products, usually peak in the three months leading up to Christmas. Shops and online retailers have ramped up stock levels to ensure they have sufficient stock for Christmas.
Last month, publishers and retailers warned of potential delays on Christmas books because the national shortage of lorry drivers had affected deliveries. Waterstones, the UK’s biggest high-street bookseller, said it had upped stocks of books by a quarter.
Bloomsbury has also increased stock levels, to £37m from £26m a year earlier. It has resorted to earlier printing, well ahead of its usual peaks in the run-up to Christmas and the beginning of the academic year in the autumn, and has been flexible about where it is printing.
Its consumer division posted 29% revenue growth, according to unaudited first-half results. Bestsellers included books by the American fantasy author Sarah J Maas about female warriors, such as A Court of Silver Flames, as well as the fantasy novels Piranesi by Susanna Clarke and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, both British writers, and Outdoor Cooking from the Michelin-starred chef Kerridge.
Sales of books by Maas jumped 130%. The company said Harry Potter sales were also good and the books remained among its top sellers, while other children’s titles grew by 10%. It launched Our Biggest Experiment: A History of the Climate Crisis by Alice Bell in July, months before the Cop26 summit that starts in Glasgow on Saturday.
Two Bloomsbury authors have won prestigious prizes since the end of August: the Nobel prize in literature went to Abdulrazak Gurnah, while the women’s prize was won by Clarke.
Overall, the company made revenues of £100.7m in the first half, up 29%, and underlying profits before tax of £12.9m, up 220%, boosted by two acquisitions. It expects to make revenues of £193m and an underlying pre-tax profit of £19.3m in the year to 28 February.