Results at Harlequin came in below expectations in the first quarter ended March 31, Bob Prichard, CEO of the publisher's parent company, Torstar, told analysts in a conference call last week. Sales fell 8.6%, to C$137.1 million ($100 million), and operating profit dropped 13%, to C$26.1 million ($19 million).

In addition to the negative impact of currency fluctuations, Harlequin's North American sales were hurt by a decline in direct marketing revenue and weaker than expected gains in retail sales. The soft retail results were due in part to "a couple of books that sold below expectations," Prichard said, while the drop in direct marketing sales was attributed to a continuing decline in the number of customers. Overseas results were mixed, with sales down in the U.K., Japan and Nordic operations.

Prichard said he expects conditions to remain "quite tough" at Harlequin for the next two quarters before improving in the fourth quarter. Despite the rocky start and outlook, Prichard called Harlequin "a really good business," and said he has "confidence in the business and management team."