Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury has swapped wizards for whisks as a schedule of cookery books based on television series drives a recovery in print sales.
The largest listed independent publisher has launched a push into the cook book sector and has enjoyed strong sales from titles such as Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food, Masterchef: the Finalists and Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds (by the co-presenter of BBC TV series The Great British Bake Off).
Broker Investec expects sales from adult print titles, which include cookery and fiction titles, to increase by 6pc for the year ending February, reversing last year’s 7pc fall in sales.
When Bloomsbury publishes its latest full-year results on Tuesday, it is expected to report pre-tax profits up by more than a quarter. Analysts are forecasting a profit before tax of £12.4m, on sales of £107m.
“Bloomsbury has delivered a very good performance during the period, underpinned by strong title sales. Our ability to identify growth areas of the market for us, as we have done with cookery, and then build a leadership position in these markets has helped to drive this performance,” said Nigel Newton, its chief executive.
Mr Newton is aiming to turn Bloomsbury into a publisher that is more balanced between adult, children’s, academic and e-books, from its beginnings as publisher of JK Rowling’s popular tales of wizardry.
The Harry Potter series brought Bloomsbury a cash windfall of about £100m during the 14 years from when it first hit the shelves in 1997, Mr Newton estimated.
The books are still selling and full-colour editions are planned from the end of next year. But sales are slowing sharply – a 22pc drop in children’s book sales to £21.3m cost the company £5.1m in lost revenue last year, almost exclusively due to lower sales of Harry Potter titles.
Bloomsbury has been planning for this moment. Investment has focused on buying up academic book publishers. Mr Newton said the £6.5m acquisition of Hart Publishing, the Oxford-based legal specialist, in December brings to an end more than 20 deals to grow the division. Academic books sales have more than doubled from about £12m in 2003 to £29m at the end of February 2013.
The bookseller also said that half of its best-selling titles were sold as e-books in some markets.