The nine remaining Borders bookstores throughout Australia are set to close, costing 315 people their jobs, but the administrator of its collapsed parent says no decision has been made on the future of Angus & Robertson.
A letter to Borders customers was sent this morning entitled: “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS! ALL LOCATIONS CLOSING! – Everything on sale – Everything Must Go!”
The book chain has offered up to 40% off the original prices of all stock but notes it is “business as usual” for the chain’s website, borders.com.au.
A spokesman for administrator Ferrier Hodgson told SmartCompany this morning that there is no change on the status of Angus & Robertson, the other book chain owned by REDgroup Retail.
But 315 people will their jobs from the Borders closures, including 137 full-time workers and 69 part-time workers.
Four of the affected Borders stores are in Melbourne: Chadstone, Carlton, Knox and Melbourne Central.
The other stores are Sydney’s Bondi Junction, Canberra and Perth city stores, and Chermside and Robina in Queensland.
Ferrier Hodgson added in a statement this morning the closures would take place over the next six to eight weeks, with July 17 the final date.
Administrator John Melluish said while the employees had shown “extraordinary commitment in their efforts to keep the business going”, the stores were closing because no buyer had emerged for the Borders outlets.
“Unfortunately, the reasons for the store closures are beyond their control,” he said.
This week, Ferrier Hodgon urgently called for potential buyers of all or part of the Angus & Robertson or Borders networks, after failing to ink a deed of company arrangement with creditors.
Ferrier Hodgson has already closed 55 Borders and Angus & Robertson stores since its appointment almost four months ago.
A further 34 employees were made redundant from REDgroup’s head office this week.
Questions remain about the dozens of Angus & Robertson franchised stores. The 25 A&R franchisees which unsuccessfully fought to break their franchise agreement after the administrators were appointed could now get their wish of operating as independent book stores, experts say.
Others have suggested a group of franchisees might band together to launch an offer for the right to continue trading under the A&R brand, presumably at an attractive price.
There is also speculation a rival book chain – namely Dymocks or Collins – might be interested in REDgroup.
REDgroup Retail’s collapse, and the inability of its administrators to find a suitable buyer, has also shone a spotlight on the health of the Australian book retail industry, with many pointing to the competitive pressures posed by online booksellers, and Australia’s relatively expensive rents and wages, plus fragile consumer spending.
But others, including the A&R franchisees which sought to trade independently, say REDgroup’s collapse was related to how the business was run, and are confident bookselling has a healthy future.