Eason reports record online revenue but in-store sales well below pre-Covid level – The Irish Times
Irish book retailer Eason saw a 12.5% increase in turnover last year as Covid lockdown restrictions were lifted, but revenue was still just under 10% below levels. ‘before Covid, Chairman David Dilger told shareholders.
At the store level, Eason’s comparable revenue was 34% lower than before the pandemic as the sector continued to feel the effects of changing consumer behavior. By contrast, Eason’s online business has posted record revenues and “high levels of profitability” and has retained much of its market share since the lifting of Covid restrictions, Mr Dilger said.
Eason’s revenue from continuing operations was €104 million for the year to the end of January 2022, compared to €93 million the previous year. He said the company’s operating profit for the year was at its “highest level in several years” due to changes in the business.
Dilger said state wage subsidies, landlord rent concessions, staff and management pay cuts and other cost reductions were “essential” to “ensure the viability of all of our points of sale” during the year.
He said the Dubray book business, acquired by Eason in February 2020, continues to “perform well”. The Dubray business had to close due to Covid restrictions for the first four months of 2022 and was not eligible for wage supports beyond the middle of the year. Most of Dubray’s retail staff have been laid off during the shutdowns, with all of their revenue coming from online.
New Dubray stores opened in Cork and Dundrum in November and the business had a “good Christmas”, shareholders informed.
Mr Dilger said footfall in the malls and the high street was well down from 2019 levels, although there was a “significant improvement” in average spending. Downtown footfall was down 35%, while non-downtown locations were down 4%.
Supply chain issues
On current trading, Dilger said the retail environment remains “challenging”, citing the impact of soaring inflation and supply chain issues. He said Eason’s revenue between March and May was “highly contested” but has started to recover recently. About 30 employees signed a voluntary redundancy plan in May as the company continues to “monitor” its cost base.
Eason reached a pay deal with its unions until November 2023, which included a one-time lump sum payment in “recognition of the contribution made by staff during the Covid period”.
Eason has also taken over its franchise store in Carlow and is planning two similar deals in the third quarter. And he has agreed terms for a Dubray store on Dublin’s Henry Street while work on his new Cork City outlet is underway and is due to open in September. In addition, the company is planning a relaunch of the Dubray site in the coming weeks.
Mr Dilger said Eason was on track to meet its financial targets for the current year, but added that the full effects of the war in Ukraine have yet to “unfold” and “will create significant pressures at the over the next few months”.
“I am certain that we are doing everything without our control to mitigate these impacts,” he said.