More A&R store closures but franchisees appear unaffected

Administrator Ferrier Hodgson will close another 16 Angus & Robertson company-owned stores within weeks, with many of the 47 franchise-owned stores tipped to go independent.


The 16 company-owned stores will close by the end of the month and will cost 174 jobs in addition to eight redundancies at REDgroup Retail headquarters during the past week.


“This brings the total number of store closures during the administration to 140, the number of job losses totals 2064,” Ferrier Hodgson said in a statement.


The administrator says the franchise stores will “continue to operate independently although it is likely these will undergo various name changes in coming weeks”.


While an official announcement has not been made it’s believed the 25 franchisees who unsuccessfully fought to scrap franchise agreements with A&R will continue to operate as independent stores.


Dymocks purchased one of the A&R company-owned stores in Queensland after buying a store in Sydney.


Dymocks chief executive Don Grover told SmartCompany Dymocks might end up with none or a couple of the remaining franchised stores.


“It’s good it’s in their hands. Let’s hope they stay in the business,” Grover said.


While the A&R brand is unlikely to adorn shopfronts by the end of the year it will continue online for the time being.


The online business covering the Borders and Angus & Robertson brands was sold this week to publisher Pearson Australia Group.


The businesses, sold for an undisclosed sum, will enable Pearson to compete for book sales against local and overseas online competitors such as Amazon.


The news comes on the back of Amazon’s announcement that it will buy British-based online bookseller Book Depository for an undisclosed amount.


Pearson said the online retail sites would be run seperately from its existing businesses, giving the Penguin titles no unfair advantage over other imprints sold via Borders and Angus & Robertson online.


Pearson has reached an agreement with e-book retailer Kobo which will ensure that purchases made during REDgroup’s ownership are honoured.


Iconic Melbourne bookstore Reader’s Feast – which also fell under the REDgroup banner as a standalone venue – will close within weeks.


Reader’s Feast, which has been running for nearly 20 years, had a reputation for impressive stock and customer service, along with literary events and annual festivals.


Store manager Mary Dalmau, who survived five owners, said earlier this week she doesn’t blame the rise of online retail for booksellers’ struggles.


“I am not of the view (held by Small Business Minister Nick Sherry) that no bookstore will survive in five years but as an industry we have not worked together well enough to understand what was going on,” Dalmau said.


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