Bloomsbury reported a banner year for sales as the Harry Potter publisher said the surge in reading during the pandemic had become “permanent” after lockdowns eased.
Society has benefited greatly from Covid restrictions as homebound consumers have turned to new hobbies, including reading, to pass the time.
Bloomsbury chief executive Nigel Newton said it was clear people who had made a habit of reading during the pandemic were continuing to buy books, helping to push annual sales up 24% to hit record highs of £230m for the year to the end of February. .
“The question running through our minds was: will the pandemic reading spurt continue? We now know the answer: reading has become a newfound 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 ray of light in the darkest days of the pandemic, may now be revealed as permanent, the simple act of reading illuminating and giving joy to millions of people.”
Bloomsbury said readers were buying titles from 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 up 86% over the year.
Meanwhile, Harry Potter book sales are up 5% as we approach the 25th anniversary of the first title in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, published in 1997.
A leap in online learning also boosted sales of Bloomsbury’s academic titles, contributing to an overall 28% rise in pre-tax profits to £22.2million.
Paper clip book chain WH Smith also reported an increase in sales, saying the resumption of travel after the closures had helped boost sales at its outlets in train stations and airports.
That contributed to a jump in the group’s revenue for the 15 weeks to June, which it said was above 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began.
WH Smith said he expected his travel division to continue to thrive during the summer business period as more people took advantage of looser restrictions on domestic and international travel.