Waterstone's rate of decline has slowed

Waterstone's like-for-like sales in its fourth quarter performance has declined by 4.8%. The result shows that the rate of decline has slowed since Myers' took over as m.d. in January, with Waterstone's outperforming the Total Consumer Market over the period.

The company's market share "was going in the right direction", Myers said, singling out fiction as a key area for the retailer in the 16 weeks to 24th April. Total sales fell by 4.3% during the same period. The performance is ahead of the Total Consumer Market, as measured by Nielsen BookScan, which has dropped 6.3%. Parent HMV Group described the result as an "improved trend" that came despite the harsh weather at the beginning of the year.

For the year to 24th April, sales at Waterstone's fell by 6.2% on a like-for-like basis and 6% on a total basis. While its last trading statement, for the 10 weeks to 2nd January, showed that like-for-like sales fell by 8.9%. The full-year result means Waterstone's will report sales of about £515m, when its preliminary results are issued in June, down from £548.3m a year earlier.

Myers explained the current book market was difficult, and had been affected by poor weather at the beginning of the quarter and good weather towards the end of it.

"The prospects for the book market are quite unclear and we are cautious about our outlook," he added. "I'm interested in the outcome of the election and how that will affect the pound in people's pockets. But from a Waterstone's perspective we have made a good start to our new strategy."