Thursday, May 28, 2009



Yesterday NZ publishers reeived the following letter:

Dear Supplier,

Since bringing ARW Group and Borders Asia Pacific together under one banner as REDgroup retail, our leadership team has been conducting a review of our various businesses in order to determine the best possible structure for the organisation moving forward.
We have reviewed a range of options, guided by the need to grow our business and ensure we retain a strong retail network so we can continue to bring your titles and products to market. We have decided that Borders, Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls will be run and managed by one group support structure.
Given the relationship between your business and REDgroup retail, we thought it important to let you know directly about these changes.

Effective today, I will move into the role of Group Managing Director for REDgroup retail.

John Coote will take on the role of MD Australia and Singapore, where he will be responsible for Angus & Robertson, Borders Australia and Singapore, Calendar Club and Temporary Book retailing. Peter Kalan, formerly Integration Manager, will become MD New Zealand effective 1st September, with responsibility for Whitcoulls and Borders New Zealand.

All of our Merchandise, Inventory and Supply Chain teams will be merged into one division which will be led by Jerome Gauder as Group Commercial Director. Reporting to Jerome will be Craig Hemer, responsible for books, and Paul Lennen, responsible for inventory. We will announce our non-book category director in the coming weeks. Please note that Mitch Brown-Graham has left the Borders business.
The changes we are making relate solely to our back office functions which will, from now on, support across all our brands. Please note that there will be no changes to Borders, Angus & Robertson or Whitcoulls stores as a result of this restructure. We are – as always – committed to retailing your titles and products and serving our customers better.
As a major supplier, we wanted to let you know about these changes directly and promptly. I want to assure you that the changes we are making internally are all about the efficient functioning of our business – it should not have any bearing on you or impact the way that we work together.

However, it is possible that as a result of the restructure, your buying contact for each of our retail outlets may change. We will be in contact with you in the coming weeks to confirm your contacts moving forward.

During this time, we will also be monitoring any changes at our end to ensure that the process goes smoothly. Given the important relationship between your business and ours it would be entirely appropriate for you to come to me directly with any feedback you might have once we put the new structure in place.

Please feel free to contact me directly at anytime on (03) 8623 1127 or Jerome Gauder on 03 8623 1179.

Contact details for the new Merchandise, Inventory and Supply Chain team are also listed below.
Jerome Gauder, Group Commercial Director
03 8623 1179
Craig Hemer, Category Director Books
03 8623 1154
Paul Lennen, Group Inventory and Planning Manager
03 8564 0662
David Fenlon
T: (03) 8623 1127 F: (03) 8623 1150


Gary M said...

What a sad day. I remember as a boy the delight I took in going into Whitcombes, first in Dunedin when we lived there, and then the great Cashel St store in Christchurch when we moved to that city. What treasure troves they were. The years went by and then Graeme Hart and others came along as owners, stripped the assets, the business was sold and resold until today we have just a sad old remnant and now even that is going to be ruled from Australia.
RIP Whitcoulls.

Unknown said...

Still, all the more reason to support those few excellent independents still operating here.

JBD said...

This on top of the LQ Dymocks closure is another nail in the coffin for the book industry in NZ.

Barrie McIvor said...

I don't agree with JBD's suggestion that the Whitcoulls muddle suggests in any way that the NZ book industry is under threat. In fact I see it as bing in really good shape with some superb publishing being done, and many excellent independently owned bookshops aroiund the country providing excellent service.
Ever since Hart bought Whitcoulls, and I think there have been 3 or 4 owners since him, the place has gone steadily downhill. It is only a matter of time before they disappear altogther I reckon and actually it will now be no great loss.

leroy said...

Well I don't agree with Barrie. The industry is more than booksellers. Independent NZ publishers will now find it even more difficult to have their books in Whitcoulls and Borders stores resulting in fewer books published, shorter print runs and a quiet slow death. With approx 50% of the retail market unavailable to them because it's filled with overseas sourced 'product', survival for many will not be an option.

publisher's rep said...

Despite JBD's comment what is happening at Whitcoulls and the Dymocks closures don't reflect on the NZ Booktrade as a whole.
Whitcoulls have been a foreign owned company for a number of years and their performance reflects that.
Dymock's franchise operation in NZ [which is also foreign owned] has also been notable by its failures.By my count they have had 8 of their franchises close [it could be more]since they commenced operations in NZ.As they have only 5 franchises still in operation it perhaps reflects more on their business model rather than on the NZ Booktrade.

Barrie Mc said...

Is Leroy suggesting that Whitcoulls/Borders have 50% of the NZ retail book market? I'd be very surprised if it is much more than 30% and that figure will clearly shrink once we have Aussies deciding what Kiwis should read!
But the space will be filled by the existing independent bookstores and those that will open as Whitcoulls closes branches.
It will be up to the publishers to foster and encourage the indie stores.

Publishers Rep said...

Leroy is unfortunately sadly out of date when he says Whitcoulls and Borders have 50% of the NZ retail book market.
Most publisher would say that they currently have between 25% and 30% and that percentage is falling.

Sylvia said...

If you live in a town or city where there is an excellent independent bookshop, like Unity Books in Auckland and Wellington, UBS bookshops in Christchurch and Dunedin, Beattie & Forbes Bookshop in Napier, Village Bookshop in Matakana, Dear Reader and Womens Bookshop, Novel and others in Auckland, and a host of others too all across the country, then why would you ever go near a Whitcoulls?

Jane said...

Yeah I can't be too worried about the likely demise of Whitcoulls, I live on the North Shore (Auckland) and we have a fabulous bookshop at Takapuna called The Booklover. Knowlegeable caring owners who work in the shop, why I go down the road to Whitcoulls?

leroy said...

Agree, all power to the independent bookstores, but 50% of the orders for some new titles have come from Whitcoulls/Borders (if they order at all of course) and on some of our backlist titles they represent about 50% of our sales.

Matthew said...

It seems to me the overlooked fact is that with the relocation of these jobs, all publishers lose, not just the small indie ones. In the multinational companies, the NZ key account managers' jobs are now on the line. Goodness knows they have had a hard enough time doing their jobs at Whitcoulls/Paper Plus/Dymocks et al in the last 18 months. If that is not enough, the remoteness of the ARW/Borders buyers will mean every NZ published title now starts on the back foot, making the survivors' work even more difficult. For many of the int'l houses, having a local program is hard enough already, with only a few dozen out of all the years locally published list truly earning out and making a contribution to the business bottom line.
And then there are the Whitcoulls crew. It may come as a surprise, but some of them actually are very good at their jobs (I stress-SOME). Having to work under Dodgy Dave the supermarket manager, alongside idiots and through minimum wage school-leavers would challenge even the finest and most idealistic booklover wanting to run a successful book category. I, for one, hold a handful of them in high regard and wish them the very best for their next steps.

Geoff said...

Why do people see Whitcoulls as a chain of bookstores? They were until Mr Hart acquired them in the early 1990s, since when it has been a variety store chain. Obviously this decision means very few NZ books will be stocked from now on, but serious booklovers will just go to the shops that do stock them. Those happy with overseas remainders can stick to visiting Whitcoulls/Borders/Paper Plus.

Dave Fenlon said...

Dear Graham,

Thank-you for your interest in Whitcoulls. I thought you wouldn't mind me writing to you to correct any concern or misunderstanding caused by our communication with our publishers last week.

As outlined in our letter (posted on your blog), we have made a decision that the Borders, Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls brands will all be supported by one group structure behind the scenes. That structure will span the Tasman.

Whitcoulls is a valuable part of the REDgroup retail business and a well established, iconic brand that - I like to think - continues to be an important part of New Zealand's retail fabric.

Under our new organisational structure, Peter Kalan will assume overall accountability for REDgroup retail in New Zealand. This is a new executive role on the ground in Auckland, indicative of the importance of New Zealand to our business. We will also maintain a sizable support office in Auckland for both Whitcoulls and Borders New Zealand and (despite rumours to the contrary) we will continue to have a buying team based in the Auckland office.

We have appointed a Category Director, based in Auckland, specifically to oversee our local New Zealand range of titles. Although the Merchandise, Inventory and Supply Chain team will be merged into one division, team members will be based on both sides of the Tasman.

We have invested, and will continue to invest in the growth of our people and businesses in Australia and New Zealand and remain committed to the communities in which we operate.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Fenlon

Danica-Lea Larcombe said...

I would just like to comment that, over the last four weeks I have been trying to get my self-published book (I am a NZ born author) into a Whitcoulls store. The manager at this store would really like to stock the book and have me do a booksigning event. But, because of the rigmarole of setting up the title in such a big organisation it is apparently too expensive for them to set it up. So even though the book has had media attention, and hopefully customers will request the book to be sourced, it cannot be stocked! So does that leave customers to go to There are no independent bookstores outside of the major cities.

Anonymous said...

Just surfing here and i realise it's an old blogg. but i wanted to add. I'm not surprised at what happens to Whitcoulls in the form of a business. It has a very checkered history, ever since the merchandising division was managed by Keith Shore who was so incompetent the company was just about broke. It was purchased by Brierleys on the cheap, Keith Shore was put out to pasture in Wanaka and the company moved its head office to Auckland. Keith Shore was in my opinion anyway almost single handedly responsible for the demise and continued slow demise of the Whitcuolls company as it used to be.He had worked there since leaving school, and worked his way up to become a director and general manager. basically he was a bully who had been promoted to his own level of incompetence.