Belfast Telegraph

Haynes takes action as sales fall

Haynes, the car manuals publisher, is to shut down its current headquarters and scrap its distribution arm amid plunging sales and profits.

The Somerset-based company said the restructuring had forced it to make "difficult" decisions affecting employees though only a "relatively small number of roles" would be lost in its UK business.

Its current site in Sparkford, which employs around 70 staff, will be relocated to a "more suitably sized premises" while its in-house distribution facility at the same location will be shut down with its work being outsourced to a logistics provider.

Car manual sales have continued to plunge, falling 7% on last year while the company's general publishing arm's sales - including books on a wide range of subjects including DIY and even the USS Enterprise from Star Trek - were down 18%.

Haynes is merging the separate divisions into a single UK editorial department which will focus its strategy on the more profitable Haynes Owner Workshop Manuals.

It is also setting up a new global website to develop "trustworthy and practical advice" in a number of different languages and through a range of different devices. This is already available in English.

The company, which employs 280 people worldwide, boasts of having sold 150 million manuals throughout the world since it was founded in 1960 by John Haynes.

But sales of the handbooks - regarded as bibles by car mechanics - have been sliding and last year it even sought to blame its decline on the impact of customers spending book budgets on racy novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

Latest results for the year to the end of May - which were postponed from their original publication date last month - showed pre-tax profits dropped 23% to £3.6 million on revenues sliding 7% to £27.6 million.

Underlying earnings in the UK and Europe halved from £1.8 million to £900,000.

The company, which has now completed a strategic review, said it had managed to weather the storm of the economic downturn but there were few signs of the pressures it faced easing off in the near future.

Chief executive Eric Oakley said its current HQ "no longer meets the requirements of a modern information publishing business".

He added: "The book distribution market has changed significantly. The investment that would be needed to upgrade the UK facility for the requirements of a modern day logistics operation would far outweigh the future benefit to the business.

"The board has therefore concluded it is no longer commercially feasible to maintain a UK distribution facility and the process of transferring this part of the business to a third party logistics provider will begin shortly."

A spokeswoman was unable to give further details of job cuts involved or where the company's new headquarters would be though she said it was "looking at new sites at the moment".

Mr Oakley said: "Whilst any business decision which impacts on our existing and often long-serving employee base is difficult to make, the board believes that the changes to the UK operations are vital at this time to put the UK business back on a firm financial footing from which we can grow the business."

He added that the firm's publishing strategy was being re-focussed on the higher margin workshop manual titles and amalgamating UK car and general publishing functions into a single editorial department.

Mr Oakley said financial performance in the current year would be hit by the one-off £1.3 million cost of restructuring but would bring savings of £500,000 in the following 12-month period, rising to £700,000.

Haynes, which has operations in the US and Australia as well as Britain, recently bought the Clymer brand, said to be the market leader worldwide in motorcycle repair manuals.

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