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Bloomsbury ups profit outlook again thanks to lockdown surge in reading

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Holly Williams
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The surge in demand for books during lockdown has helped Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury up its annual sales and profit outlook for the second time in as many months.

Bloomsbury hailed an “exceptional sales performance” in February – the final month of its financial year – as people have turned to reading to keep themselves entertained during coronavirus restrictions.

Shares in the group jumped as much as 15% at one stage as it said this would see profit come in “significantly” ahead of market expectations for the year to February 28 – having already unveiled a profit upgrade in January.

The group said consumer books were in high demand last month across both adult and children titles, including Sarah J Maas’ new novel, A Court Of Silver Flames, which was published on February 16.

Other bestsellers include Outlawed by Anna North, We Are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins, and Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, winner of Audiobook of the Year 2021.

Bloomsbury added it was seeing continued strong sales of older titles, such as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller and the cookbook Dishoom.

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The soaring popularity of reading amid lockdown and social distancing restrictions led to the volume of print books sold in the UK during 2020 growing by 5.2% compared with 2019, according to Nielsen.

But Bloomsbury admitted it was unclear how trends will change after lockdown.

Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury, said: “The popularity of reading during lockdown is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise very dark last year.

“February, the final month of our financial year, saw an exceptional sales performance for Bloomsbury as the surge in reading continued.

“We do not yet know how consumer behaviour will change as academic institutions, shops and leisure activities re-open and whether this popularity will continue as restrictions are lifted.

“We are confident, though, in the underlying strength of our business, the quality of our titles and content and our long-term strategy.”

The group said it had repaid £63,000 of Government furlough support, as well as the temporary staff pay cut between last March and May.

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