The fate of Angus & Robertson franchisees hangs in the balance after it was announced 12 more stores will close as administrators struggle to bring the bookstore chain’s operator back from the brink.
REDgroup Retail, which operates the Angus & Robertson and Boarders bookstore chains, was placed in the hands of administrator Ferrier Hodgson in February.
In March, Ferrier Hodgson announced the closure of 37 company-owned Angus & Robertson stores, costing 321 jobs.
The firm recently announced the closure of an additional 12 stores, with more than 100 people to lose their jobs.
Five of the stores are in Victoria, while New South Wales, WA and the ACT will lose one store each. Two outlets will close in both Queensland and South Australia.
Administrator Steve Sherman said in a statement the closures will allow the restructured business to focus on more profitable stores.
“These are difficult decisions but necessary if there is to be any chance of the business surviving… By removing these marginal stores, we will be moving towards a much more profitable footprint,” Sherman said.
He said the closures will not affect the Angus & Robertson franchise-owned stores, which are not in administration and are financially independent of REDgroup.
While the announcement does not directly affect franchisees, the combination of bad publicity and uncertainty over the wider group is having an impact on already slow sales.
Angus & Robertson franchisees say they have witnessed a noticeable drop in sales since the appointment of voluntary administrators to REDgroup, while one worker described the impact on franchisees as an “untold story”.
Another worker says he has had to explain to customers that their store is a franchise, and the business is suffering from the association with REDgroup.
The branch closures leave just 67 Angus & Robertson stores in Australia and 25 Borders stores.
A spokesman for the administrators says the latest store closures will occur over a three-week period and further shutdowns cannot be ruled out.
Meanwhile, Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, believes many Angus & Robertson franchisees will reinvent themselves in a bid to disassociate from REDgroup Retail.