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Waterstone’s has roared back into profit in the UK, thanks to “better standards of book selling”, according to its MD James Daunt. Under the ownership of Russian businessman Alexander Mamut, the 270-strong chain achieved a pre-tax profit of £9.9m on sales that increased by 4% to £409.1m for the year to 30 April 2016. This turns around a pre-tax loss of £4.5m in 2015.

The chain is now in a mood to expand and has said it will open stores in “double figures” in 2017. Daunt said: “We are scurrying around, looking for the right opportunities, but the property market remains quite tight in the UK…We will be looking predominantly on the high street, although we have done quite well in shopping centres recently.”

During the year to April 2016, the stores saw £9m of investment to improve the shopping environment. It is exploring new formats, which can be seen at its Tottenham Court Road store in central London – boosting the amount of face-out displays, opening cafes and selling a balance range of non-book product.

The company says: “This investment, combined with better standards of bookselling within the shops to improve service and the range of books stocked, is once again making Waterstones, for those who love books, a place to visit and spend time in.”

Daunt says the chain’s three-year plan is now to “grow top line sales and generate more profit”. Certainly, he has the good will of UK publishers behind him.