Revenues down as JS Group focuses on Aspire

News - Bookselling Tuesday, 05 March 2019

Academic specialist has sold JS International and Hammicks


JS Group - owner of academic bookseller John Smith & Son - has confirmed a "repositioning" of its business following the release of financial results for the year 2017/18.

Revenues at the group for the year to 31 May 2018 were £34.2m, down from £38.2m in 2016/17. Operating profit was £0.145m (£0.25m), and cash generated from operating activities was £1.26m (£1.5m).

JS has sold two of its businesses. At JS International, revenues declined by 57%, affected particularly by changes to the government funding of students in Botswana. The group sold JS International to South African academic bookseller Van Schaik in August last year. At the end of 2018, JS sold Hammicks to the specialist legal bookseller Wildy & Sons. Hammicks' sales in the period covered by the results were down by 10%, largely as a result of the one-off benefit of a particular title; like-for-like sales were flat.

The group is focusing on its Aspire student card scheme. Higher education revenues were down (3.1%), but Aspire revenues were up, by 20%. Schemes went live during the year at York St John University and Birmingham City University. JS secured four Aspire contracts for schemes that went live at the start of the 2018/19 academic year, at University College Birmingham, University of Salford, University of Sunderland and Teesside University.

Peter Gray, JS Group chairman and CEO, said: "Our strategic focus is on developing our market leading Aspire services in the UK and on working with an ever increasing number of universities and students. To help sharpen our focus we made the decision to sell both JS International and our Hammicks business and I am delighted that both businesses have found excellent new homes. Our new Aspire schemes performed well in 2017/18 and the new 2018/19 schemes have got off to a tremendous start. I was particularly pleased to see that our new model of support based around Engagement Partners is performing very well. There remains significant sector interest in Aspire and we remain confident of signing more new Aspire contracts this year to go live in the 2019/20 academic year."

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