Led by gains of 20% or better in the U.S. and U.K., its two biggest markets, revenue at the Quarto Group jumped 21% in the first half of 2021, to $56.9 million. The sales increase, combined with the publisher’s cost-cutting efforts, resulted in a first-half operating profit of $4 million in 2021, compared to a loss of $1.8 million in the first six months last year.
In reporting the results, Quarto acknowledged sales in 2020 were weak due to the impact of the pandemic, noting that 2021 sales rose by only 1% over the first half of 2019. Quarto said that sales of its trade titles were up over both the first six months of 2020 and 2019, but its coedition business, in which Quarto collaborates with other publishers to create illustrated titles and other works, was still down. Sales of trade backlist titles did particularly well in the first six months of 2021, and Quarto said it also benefited from the reopening of bricks-and-mortar stores.
Sales of adult titles had a very good first six months of the year, up 24% compared to 2020 and 3% up over 2019. In the U.S., Quarto’s Fair Winds Press and Cool Spring Press imprints did well, led by sales of gardening and cooking titles.
Sales in Quarto’s children’s division rose 16% over 2020, but fell 4% compared to 2019, with the U.S. in particular seeing revenue decline from two years ago. The U.K.-based Frances Lincoln Children's Books imprint had a good start to the year, while in the U.S., Quarto’s SmartLab division performed well, with sales of Squishy Human Body selling over 112,000 units.
Quarto's outlook for the remainder of 2021 was cautious. The publisher said online sales are returning to more “normal” volumes as sales of physical retail improve. Of particular concern, Quarto said, are supply chain issues, which include the lack of freight capacity and price increases; the company has seen freight costs increase 3 to 4 times over compared to the beginning of the year, it said, while printing costs are also up. Despite those challenges, Quarto reported, it “has the right plans in place to capture all possible opportunities and deliver a satisfactory second half.”