Waterstone's has seen a downturn in sales over the summer reflecting what it called a "weaker book market". The chain reported that like-for-like sales had dropped by 1.7% since its year-end on 26th April even when the effects of the last Harry Potter book are removed from the figures.
The figures, for the 18 weeks ended 30th August 2008, show like-for-like sales down by 4.3% when the first eight days sales of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was released on 21 July 2007, are included in last year's figures. Total sales at the chain dropped by 5.9%. The group said that a "well-executed marketing strategy ensured that market share was maintained".
Waterstone's managing director Gerry Johnson told The Bookseller that footfall was quieter than last year: "It's not as strong as we have been but there are two contributing factors. The first is, as everybody knows, it's a tough market. Then there is Harry Potter - when you had a quarter of a million people outside of stores last year there was a clear halo effect. But I am really pleased with market share. We were maintaining it and are now growing it."
Johnson also lamented the lack of big titles: "We were clearly missing big titles in non-fiction this year - there was a lack of a God Delusion or Alistair Campbell." But he added: "Looking ahead we are in a great place with the reward card, we have a very very stong academic offer and there are good titles to come."
The figures, which are released by parent HMV Group, as part of its interim management statement, show the music chain, HMV, faring better, with like-for-like sales growth of 4.3% in HMV UK & Ireland, and HMV International's like-for-like sales growth of 2.9%. Overall the HMV Group saw like-for-like sales up 1.3%, or by 2.2% excluding Harry Potter. HMV chief executive Simon Fox said: "In what is, undoubtedly, a tough consumer environment, the solid start made by the group to the new financial year means that our plans are in line with the board's expectations, and I remain confident that our strategic initiatives are on track"
Taken From 'THE BOOKSELLER' Friday 5th September 2008