The past few years have not been the easiest for antiquarian booksellers. The last thing anyone needed was a crisis that forced shops to close, people to retreat behind the walls of their homes and rarely stick their heads out. But, here we are. Most booksellers get to suffer in silence, but Scholium Group, parent of venerable bookseller Shapero Rare Books, is a public company. They need to update their shareholders.
Early last month, Scholium reported they were experiencing “a small monthly loss.” Scholium has two other newer businesses, one selling stamps, the other doing joint sales with other dealers. However, Shapero Rare Books is their largest business. In their last reported six-month period, ending last September, Scholium was able to report that they had achieved a small profit, significant improvements over both the previous six-month period, and the six-month period ending in September of 2018. Shapero had suffered the usual doldrums many booksellers experienced, exacerbated by having a substantial business in the particularly challenged field of Russian books. Nonetheless, they had turned the corner.
That can only make the market contraction caused by the coronavirus outbreak even more disheartening. Scholium noted that Shapero's retail premises were closed to the public, though it and the other divisions maintained business at a lower level online and by phone. But, despite undertaking cost-cutting measures, they were not able to prevent monthly losses, though the firm reported that the losses (exact amount unspecified) were small. In a statement the company released, Scholium reported, “As a result, and taking into account various cost savings that have been achieved by the board, including the furloughing of several members of staff, the group as a whole is currently trading at a small monthly loss.”
On a positive note, Scholium reported that it had inventory worth over €8 million along with €270,000 (approximately US $300,000) in cash. Nonetheless, their stock price slipped to a new low at £25 shortly after the announcement.