Bookshop chains in trouble
I love bookshops.
I could easily work in one but then I wouldn’t have as much time to read and write. Never mind.
Sadly, news came earlier this week that two big bookshop chains here in Australia are in financial trouble and have gone into voluntary administration. I have enjoyed many visits to both Borders and Angus and Robertson (A&R) shops over the years. A&R actually bought out the struggling Borders sometime in the last year or so. The Australian Borders chain has no financial connections with the American chain which is also in trouble. A&R is one the oldest and most respected chain bookshops in Australia with a history stretching back over 150 years. I’m not sure how this will effect the local shop in my own hometown.
Rapidly growing internet sales of books, especially to overseas giants like Amazon, have been blamed. You can read more details on the ABC website here. I must admit to buying some books online, but only shops here in Australia, and generally only those I can’t physically visit due to distance. These are usually genre specific shops. Most of my books are still bought in traditional bookshops, but I see my buying habits are changing too. I now do a large proportion of my business and bill paying online.
If these two chains o under, the effect on readers will certainly be significant. How this will impact on writers is yet to be seen.
Good reading and good writing.
I have seen both Borders and A&R charging more than the recommended retail price for their books, sometimes $5 or more for some hardcovers.
I used to work for a publisher and the wholesale price charged to book shops was based on the RRP. The maximum wholesale price charged was 35% off the RRP which was usually applicable to the smaller independent book shops.
The larger companies like A&R, borders, Dymocks received more generous discounts as did the BigWs, K Marts, Targets etc.
While it is very sad to see A&R in difficulties, I am not surprised.
Good points Tim. It annoys me that the big chains and supermarkets get a bigger discount. That’s why I rarely buy from them. Sadly, it sometimes comes down to economics – meaning what’s best for MY wallet. On a limited budget I cannot afford to subsidise indie booksellers, as much as I would love to.
The general consensus in Sydney about Borders seems to be good riddance. They were overpriced and understaffed. I tried to buy a book in a Borders once, without any success. Couldn’t even find a sales assistant. I get most of my books from a small bookshop in the next suburb. It is about as big as our family room and spilling books everywhere. The whole bottom row of one wall is lined with special orders books. If you want a cheap top 10 book try Myer or Big W. If you want anything else find a small bookseller who knows what he is talking about. The chains in the middle are not usually much good. Borders was also owned by one of those private equity groups who specialise in sucking out money, not providing books.
Borders in Adelaide is generally okay but now that you’ve made me think about it, in the dozen or so times I’ve been there, not once has a staff member asked if I need any help. In contrast with that, yesterday in my local A&R (a franchise not part of the chain) I was asked by two of the three staff present if I needed help and greeted warmly by the third (it helped that I once taught her son). I was only there for 5 minutes for an enquiry for my daughter. Finding booksellers who know – really KNOW books is getting harder by the day. Finding someone who will actually help you is almost impossible in the big shops.