Waterstones MD James Daunt has said it is a “really good time for booksellers and for publishers”, as he commented on the book chain’s results for the year ending 25 April 2020.  The group reported sales of £376m, down 4.3% (£392.8m) on 2019, and profit after tax fell 8.4% to £20.8m.  But Daunt said stores had been performing “above base forecast” since reopening after lockdown in April.

“Lockdown favoured all the ways in which people mentally occupy themselves, in which books are obviously the primary one and our primary business, but also board games and toys,” Daunt said.  “We literally sold every single puzzle that we could get hold of which is fantastic and we are a major puzzle retailer and always have been.

“The reality is that there’s a retail spending boom going on. People are not spending it on hospitality, they’re not spending it on foreign travel, there’s money in people’s pockets and they’re spending it in shops and online. It is a really good time for booksellers and for publishers, we just have to hope through decent policies and the vaccination programme we’re able to stay open.”

A spokesperson for the company added: “The outbreak of Covid-19 during the financial year has had, and continues to have, a significant adverse impact on Waterstones. Under government direction, the entire estate of shops was closed in mid-March 2020. The shops in Belgium and Holland reopened in April 2020, followed by the majority of the remaining shops in mid-June 2020.

“Footfall and sales continue to recover but remain depressed, notably in London and other metropolitan city centres. Subsequent mandated closures have also been implemented across the estate throughout the following financial year.”

The company thanked customers “for their loyalty” and its booksellers “for the discipline and steadfast commitment they have shown throughout this period. It allows the company to enter the 2021/22 financial year in a strong position and well placed for a return to growth in both sales and profits compared to the 2019/20 financial year.”