Myers blames Waterstone’s slump on “unacceptable Christmas”
30.06.10 | Graeme Neill
http://www.thebookseller.com/news/122378-myers-blames-waterstones-slump-on-unacceptable-christmas.html

Waterstone’s managing director Dominic Myers has said an “unacceptable Christmas” was the key driver in the chain’s profits slumping by more than 70% to £2.8m.

The retailer announced its full year results to the City today, ahead of this evening’s party for its Kensington High Street branch, one of the first of the initial 20 stores to be refitted by the new regime. Sales at Waterstone’s were down 6.3% to £513.6m and like for like sales fell 6.2% in the year to 24th April. According to Nielsen BookScan data, the sales decline outstripped that of the wider market.

The Total Consumer Market fell 2.5% during the same period. The General Retail Market, a good indicator of high street performance, was down 5.9% over the same period.

Myers said of the performance: “It was an unacceptable performance over Christmas and we can see the impact of that with the full year results.”

Since his appointment Myers has overhauled the buying systems at the chain, giving branches greater autonomy over buying, focusing on range bookselling and relaunching the brand.

Myers identified non-fiction as a particularly tough area for Waterstone’s during the past year. He said: “Non-fiction had a difficult year and we had a lack of range in that area which was only going to exacerbate a poor performance. But as our range has changed we have seen a distinct improvement in non-fiction going into the financial year.”

The new m.d also admitted the chain had not received the cost savings it expected from its distribution hub during the first year of operation. “The implementation was very difficult and the roll-out to stores was more prolonged than expected,” he said. “This year we are very confident in the way in which the hub is operating. Availability is up and ahead of targets. We are expecting the hub to deliver significant benefits.”

The chain was also hit by £1.7m in “management restructuring costs”, with total exceptional costs of £2.7m for the year.

Myers said there were no plans for store openings or closures but added the chain had added more than £1m to its payroll over the past year, hiring new staff for stores.

Looking at the forthcoming 12 months, Myers said: “We need to see a substantial improvement in profits. We have got a clear program to achieve that which we are well on track with. Most of this is focused on getting a good proposition in place in time for Christmas and I am confident we will do that.”

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