Six-month revenue at the Quarto Group fell roughly 17% from the first half of 2019, dropping to $46.9 million. The group operating loss rose from $1.3 million in 2019 to $2.5 million in the first half of 2020. Sales in both the publisher’s adult and children’s divisions fell by about 17%.
Quarto cited the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for the decline in results. Sales in its biggest market, the U.S., dropped 21.8%, to $28.7 million, although the company had some U.S. successes in the first half of the year. U.K.-based Frances Lincoln Children's Books had a bestseller in the U.S. with This Book is Anti-Racist. Race Point and Rock Point, based in Quarto’s New York office, and Quarry Books, based in Beverley, Mass., had sales gains over the first half of 2019, the company said.
The company also noted that sales of cooking titles were up in the period, pointing to strong demand for Epic Air Fryer Cookbook from its Harvard Common Press imprint and Keto Simple from Fair Winds Press. Quarto said its custom and English language co-editions businesses had a drop in sales “as a consequence of our U.S.-based customers showing caution in placing orders during the pandemic,” but added that it was able to limit the impact of the sales drop on its bottom line through unspecified cost management initiatives that cut overhead expenses by 9% in the first half of 2020.
The publisher was guarded about its prospects for the remainder of 2020, citing the uncertainty of the course of the pandemic. The company said that while it doesn’t expect the “blanket lockdown” that came in the U.S. in the second quarter, “the partial shutdown in certain U.S. states and the prolonged uncertainty of the pandemic will continue to have a negative impact on our trade and co-edition business.” Quarto said it hopes to mitigate the short-term impact of the virus, by, among other things, focusing on six main subject areas—children, gardening, food & drink, house & home, handicrafts/arts/crafts, and mind/body/spirit.