A little more than one year after being named president of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt said he is happy with the company's diversification efforts, which have expanded the company's publishing program beyond its traditional base in the Christian bookselling market. He credited the company's "broad portfolio of businesses" with boosting Nelson's sales without the benefit of a huge bestseller akin to The Purpose-Driven Life, published by archrival Zondervan.
Results in the company's recently completed third quarter ended December 31 reflect Nelson's broad approach. Sales increased 13.1%, to $63.3 million, and earnings jumped 38.4%, to $5.5 million—without a runaway hit. The top-selling item was the children's DVD Flo the Lyin' Fly by Max Lucado, while Bibles, led by a CD set and the company's "biblezines," also sold well in the quarter.
The CBA market remains Nelson's largest, but half of the publisher's top 10 accounts are mainstream retailers. Barnes & Noble is one of Nelson's three largest customers, and Amazon.com is among the top 10. Hyatt said he is concerned about the problems CBA retailers, particularly independents, are having, and said Nelson is looking for ways to support those outlets. Nevertheless, Hyatt said, Nelson is not giving up on pushing deeper into the general marketplace. He said title growth in fiscal 2006 will likely come from new imprints, such as the business imprint Nelson Currency, while the company's fiction line, WestBow, will up its output. For the company overall, however, Hyatt said Nelson will adhere to its strategy of growing the business while reducing the number of products it releases.
"The name of the game is revenue growth," Hyatt said of his top objective for the next fiscal year. He told PW that while Nelson has the capability to grow organically, acquisitions have not been ruled out. "I think there could be opportunities for consolidation within the [religious publishing] industry, and if there are, we'll be ready," he said.