Feat of Clays

Harry Potter, Hillary Clinton and the Atkins Diet have helped Suffolk printer Clays report a bumper year.The firm printed the latest instalment of the Harry Potter series, Hillary Clinton's autobiography and the book behind the Atkins Diet phenomenon at its Bungay plant.

Harry Potter, Hillary Clinton and the Atkins Diet have helped Suffolk printer Clays report a bumper year.

The firm printed the latest instalment of the Harry Potter series, Hillary Clinton's autobiography and the book behind the Atkins Diet phenomenon at its Bungay plant.

Sales of the books helped Clays increase its share of the book market, consolidating its position as the leading supplier of books to retailers.

The company says the UK books market will remain strong this year, but the impact of bestsellers may be more muted next year.


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Clays has invested in more printing equipment at the plant which will allow it to expand its operations .

A strong performance by Clays helped offset problems in other businesses operated by parent company St Ives.

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Its glossy magazines and financial publications businesses both saw falling sales.

With companies holding back on their advertising budgets, many UK magazine publishers slimmed down the number of pages in their titles, hitting St Ives's income.

The company said that the number of pages varied markedly both between titles and from issue to issue with titles dependent on travel and leisure advertising particularly hard hit.

Prices were also under pressure and demand was particularly weak in the final quarter. The number of pages in US publications was more consistent but pricing pressure increased.

Meanwhile, subdued demand for financial publications in the UK, Europe and the US also put the company under pressure, forcing it to pass on savings from cost cutting last year to customers through lower prices.

St Ives said it had maintained its share of the financial publications market, including increasing its share of work printing annual reports for FTSE companies.

Chairman Miles Emley said: "Trading conditions were challenging throughout the year.

"We did well to make a modest improvement in both margin and profit. Clays, our business serving the UK book market, had a particularly good year.

The company's financial strength is undiminished.

'There is little sign of any sustained upturn in activity, but in the longer term we remain confident in the potential of the company's strong competitive position in its chosen markets."

Overall St Ives turnover dropped from £466.8m in 2002 to £437.2m this year. Pre-tax profits were better, thanks to fewer one-off charges, rising from £24.3m last year to £34.6m.

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