TRADING STATEMENTS: Discount by Rivals Hard to Counter; Ottakar's

Article excerpt

HMV takeover target Ottakar's blamed flat Christmas trading on heavy discounting by bigger rivals such as Waterstone's and, the online bookseller.

The company yesterday revealed that like-for-like sales had been static in the four weeks to January 7.

But the festive season did signal an improvement for the company, whose same basis sales were down 4.9 per cent over a 23 week period and 2.9 per cent off in the last 49 weeks.

"The book market enjoyed good growth in Christmas 2005. Ottakar's however, despite some uplift in the pre-Christmas week, felt the effects of the heavy discounting strategies adopted by its competitors," it said.

"Ottakar's expects conditions to remain challenging for the rest of the year and is well advanced in taking steps to reduce its cost base, maximise its margins and develop new sales opportunities."

In July, Ottakar's blamed poor sales on heavy price-cutting on the latest Harry Potter novel. While it sold the sixth instalment of the child wizard's adventures for pounds 11. …