Despite a year “absent of significant bestselling titles,” U.K. bookselling chain Waterstones nevertheless saw sales rise from £385.7 million to £392.77 million, a jump of 1.8%. Pre-tax profit was £27.7 million for the full year to April 27, 2019, a significant hike over the previous year's pre-tax profit of £20 million. Four stores opened in the year and five closed, bringing the total to 227. The period covers the period when Elliott Advisors purchased the company in April 2018 and the purchase of Foyles, a smaller U.K. chain with seven stores.
In the release of annual results, the company said, "Waterstones continues to seek to improve the standards of bookselling within its shops by the training and enhanced career development of its booksellers and to support this with investment in the shops themselves and the operational infrastructure." The bookseller will face growing pressure from U.K. booksellers, who last year petitioned for higher wages and won a 6% wage hike for this year.
In June 2019, Elliott Advisors also bought Barnes & Noble and put James Daunt, Waterstone's CEO, in charge. In commenting on today's results at Waterstones, Daunt has told various publications that Barnes & Noble resembles Waterstones in 2011, when Daunt took over the company. He told iNews: “We had a pretty awful Christmas over here, but that's because there are parts that I've abandoned” and reiterated that the company remains "a big mess."
Prior to the holidays Daunt had tempered expectations for the season, and he repeated to the U.K. press that B&N stores need to be updated and refreshed. He added he was abandoning projects that distracted from the core business of bookselling, like Barnes & Noble Marketplace, which allowed for third-party sellers to offer goods on the company's web site.