Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beattie's Blat

The Bookman is honoured to be writing a regular column for New Zealand Author on current events in the industry the first of which appeared in the April/May issue out earlier this week and which is now reproduced here with permission of the publisher, the New Zealand Society of Authors.


The woes besetting Whitcoulls have been widely reported in the media.

In summary the Whitcoulls-Borders Group are part of the Australia REDgroup. Last month administrators were called in to the REDgroup which is controlled by private equity group PEP.

In New Zealand there are 67 Whitcoulls stores, five Borders stores and nine Bennetts stores. New Zealand creditors are owed 21.5 million dollars.

It is a serious financial situation and the administrator, Ferrier Hodgson, is actively seeking to sell the New Zealand businesses.

In the past Whitcoulls have accounted for up to 55% of all book sales in New Zealand but these days the figure has declined to around 30%, still significant.

It seems highly unlikely a buyer will emerge wanting all these stores, most in excellent retail sites, to be continued as bookstores. It is much more likely that a major chain like The Warehouse or the Briscoes/Rebel Sports Group or Hallensteins Glassons will buy the stores, keep those they want and close the others. Should this happen then suddenly the availability of books throughout New Zealand would diminish hugely.

It is a widely accepted fact that the more retail outlets there are selling books the more books that will be sold. Likewise fewer retail outlets means fewer book sold. Of course one can say but we have our marvellous independent stores and while that is true there are many fewer of them, and they probably only represent something like 20-25% of total book sales in New Zealand.

Then there is on-line selling but it would take years for that to make up for the huge gap that would be left by the demise of Whitcoulls. And anyway while on-line selling can easily more large quantities of well-known international authors it is a different story when it comes to New Zealand fiction, especially from writers without an established reputation.

Let us hope that at least some of the Whitcoulls stores are saved, it will be bad news for everyone otherwise, especially authors.


Anonymous said...

So with that reasoning: why wouldn't some of the sites be taken up by present or new independent bookstores - who may well be fleshing out their business with e-reader devices, cafes, toys, who knows what?
I know many of these site are in high rent areas but maybe not all.


Bookman Beattie said...

In the case of the existing independent bookstores because they probably haven't got the cash. So much of their capital is tied up in their book stock.
It could well be that Paper Plus would be interested in some of the sites.

Jeff Grigor said...

The problem as I understand it Graeme for Paper Plus is that their franchise agreement specifies an area where they are the only Paper Plus shop.
As most of the Whitcoulls are in the same malls [or towns and small cities] where there is already a Paper Plus franchisee it would be difficult [if not impossible] to take over the Whitcoulls site and install another Paper Plus.

Mary McCallum said...

Great post, Bookman, and a FANTASTIC photo!!!! Love it.