Time is running out for Angus & Robertson stores, with stores tipped to close – some by the end of the June – if a buyer is not found.
Industry sources expect an announcement shortly, with rumours rival book sellers are interested in some stores.
A spokesman for administrator Ferrier Hodgson said this morning there is no change to the status of A&R. Last week, the administrator announced that the nine remaining Borders stores would close, having failed to find a buyer for the chain or ink a deed of company arrangement.
But a source has told SmartCompany that some store leases will be terminated at the end of the month, and Ferrier Hodgson has already informed A&R stores of closures and redundancies. The source says staff members have been told their entitlements will be honoured.
The company-owned stores are also said to have received promotional material for the final sale, and been instructed to not accept new deliveries, or do any stock transfers within stores. It has also been alleged that their stock has been photographed.
A document from its debt-laden parent REDGRoup Retail, obtained by SmartCompany, says “more information about redundancy entitlements will be provided once your store has an exact date for closure.” The document is not dated, so it is difficult to ascertain whether it relates to already announced closures, or is a blanket guide for stores in the event they are closed.
The document also says group certificates will be posted to home addresses around mid-July, as well as final pay slips. There is also a direction to contact the payroll department after final pay about separation certificates for dealing with Centrelink.
A&R stores have been instructed not to talk to the media.
REDGroup Retail, which is owned by Pacific Equity Partners, went into voluntary administration in mid-February. Management estimated at the time the company had about 20% market share. Of the 154 stores inherited by Ferrier Hodgson, 25 were Borders stores, 78 were company-owned A&R stores and 51 were A&R franchises.
There are now 109 A&R stores Australia-wide, including 50-odd franchised stores, half of which unsuccessfully sought to break their franchise agreement after Ferrier’s appointment.
The first A&R store was opened in 1884 in Sydney and its website states the “Angus & Robertson name has a proud and long heritage in bookselling and Australian literature, and is one of the most recognised retail brands in the country.”
In an employee update this week, Ferrier Hodgson said the proceeds of the sales of the inventory located at the closing Angus & Robertson and Borders stores would be sufficient to pay out all pre-appointment employee entitlements in full.
“We anticipate that employees who have ceased to work with the company will be paid their pre-appointment entitlements prior to June 30, 2011. Employees who cease employment after June 30, 2011 will be paid their pre-appointment entitlements in full with their final pay.”
A REDgroupRetail staffer has not responded to a call from SmartCompany.