In a sign that the rare book trade is heading up again, Scholium Group recently announced that the company has turned a profit again for its most recent half-year. Scholium is the parent of Shapero Rare Books, which is the largest of the three businesses they own. Business was brisk for Shapero, which accounts for most of the group's turnaround.
Scholium had been struggling the past few years but had finally turned the corner again heading into 2020 when Covid disrupted their, and just about everyone else's, plans. Losses mounted up as they had to close their London showroom and book fairs, an important part of their business, shut down. The good results are perhaps somewhat surprising because the time period for which the company returned to profitability was the six months running from April 1 through September 30, 2021. While Covid-related restrictions were reduced, and many people took to letting it less affect their lives, it has hardly disappeared, and live book fairs remained closed during that period. This was an excellent report and good news, though we now await more word on this latest variant of Covid recently to emerge from South Africa.
Scholium reported that sales for the six month period were up 35% over the same period a year ago. This was primarily due to “significantly higher sales at Shapero Rare Books,” where the increase was 40%. Sales for the six months at Shapero were £3,814,000 (US $5,089,000). This was up from £2,730,000 for 2020, and also up from £2,898,000 in 2019 before the pandemic. The result was the Group made a pre-tax profit of £135,000 (US $180,000) vs. a loss of £158,000 last year.
Scholium also reported a small increase in its inventories, up £155,000 from last year, attributable to purchases slightly exceeding sales. They now stand at £8,895,000 (US $11,862,000). They added that Shapero “has continued a re-balancing of its stock between rare books and prints to enable it to increase its sales of prints in the future.” It also looks to reduce inventories “as part of a process towards its business towards consignments from third parties for either retail or auction sales.”
Commenting on the firm's performance, recently appointed Chairman David Harland said, “We are pleased the Group has traded profitably, despite the cancellation of books and other trade fairs and the enforced closure of the shop for some of the period. The Group has recovered well from the restrictions imposed by Covid 19. The Group remains focussed on maximising sales through online and other channels as well as its premises, and is welcoming the return to London of visitors from overseas, in particular the United States.”
Looking to the future, Scholium said, “The Group is continuing to focus its efforts on its various online platforms, as well as maintaining contact with clients remotely via email and telephone. This has now been augmented with face to face contact in the Group's premises and at trade fairs with clients now able to travel with fewer restrictions. Looking forward, the Group is viewing its trading for the second half of the year with optimism.”