Harlequin posted modest gains in the second quarter ended June 30, with total revenue up 1.2%, to C$116 million ($110.2 million). Operating income, however, jumped 22%, to C$12.5 million ($11.9 million). The improvement in earnings was attributed in part to last year’s restructuring, which eliminated about 40 positions; parent company Torstar said the reorganization resulted in cost savings of C$900,000 in the second quarter and C$1.8 million for the first half of the year. Revenue in the first six months rose 3.1%, to C$240.4 million, and operating profit increased to C$31.6 million from C$25.3 million.
In the second quarter, Harlequin said sales were flat in its North American retail division, with the number of series books sold offset by a decline in single title sales. Direct-to-consumer sales continued their downward trend in the quarter. Harlequin head Donna Hayes said series units were off slightly due to a change in timing of promotions, but that dollar sales were up. Two titles by Debbie Macomber were among Harlequin’s top single title sellers, while the company’s paranormal series had a strong quarter, and a new African-American series, Kimani, also gained traction in the period. Unlike more general interest trade houses, Hayes said sales through retailers have been solid, with several accounts reporting that romance in general has been a good category. Sales through online retailers have grown by double digits.
E-book sales also rose in the period, albeit from a small base. Still, Harlequin has seen enough growth in the format to introduce a new line. Spice Briefs will be original erotic e-books in the 5,000- to 15,000-word range. The price will be $2.99, although the company is offering the titles at 99 cents for until Aug. 15. Two titles will be published per month and will be available in all e-book formats. Hayes said that beginning this month, Harlequin will create an e-book edition of every new book it releases.