Bloomsbury has reported a record year for sales, as the Harry Potter publisher said the increase in reading during the pandemic had become “permanent” after lockdowns eased.
The company benefited substantially from Covid restrictions when homebound consumers turned to new hobbies, including reading, to pass the time.
Bloomsbury’s chief executive, Nigel Newton, said it was clear that people who picked up a reading habit during the pandemic were continuing to buy books, helping to push annual sales up 24% to record highs of £230m for the year to the end of February .
“The question on all of our minds was: would the pandemic arise in reading continue? We now know the answer: reading has become a reacquired habit and continues to thrive,” Newton said as the company disclosed its annual results.
“The surge in reading, which seemed to be one of the only rays of light in the darkest days of the pandemic, is perhaps now being revealed as permanent, with the simple act of reading shedding light and giving joy to millions of people.”
Bloomsbury said readers were picking up titles by Sarah J Maas – the American author whose fantasy books include Crescent City, Throne of Glass, and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series – with sales of her books soaring 86% over the year.
Meanwhile, sales of Harry Potter books grew by 5% in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the first title in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, being published in 1997.
A jump in online learning increased sales of Bloomsbury’s academic titles, too, contributing to an overall 28% jump in pre-tax profits to £22.2m.
The books-to-paperclips chain WH Smith also reported an increase in sales, saying the recovery in travel after the lockdowns had helped boost sales at its outlets in train stations and airports.
It contributed to a leap in group revenue for the 15 weeks to June, which it said was above 2019 levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
WH Smith said it expected its travel division to continue to thrive through the summer trading period, as more people took advantage of looser restrictions for domestic and international travel.