Things we keep repeating

 

 

UPDATE

For the most detailed reports on the REDgroup administration process over the past few months see the Bookseller+Publisher website.

 

 

As the news of REDgroup retail going into voluntary administration shines a light on the challenges that have been facing many local booksellers for some time, we find ourselves answering familiar questions over and over again.

So, in no particular order:

  • Some of booksellers’ woes are common to all retailers, some are specific to booksellers
  • Among the former: no stimulus package payments for Christmas 2010, a strong Australian dollar, overseas online competition (helped slightly by lack of GST on overseas purchases), move by consumers to online purchasing whether driven by price or not
  • Among the latter: fewer ‘big books’ for Christmas 2010 (no Stieg Larsson, no Dan Brown, no Matthew Reilly)—as supported by Nielsen Bookscan figures which showed top 10 bestsellers down 50% over Christmas sales period, ramifications of Australia’s Parallel Importation Restrictions, ebooks (though not yet nearly as much of a factor as most journalists would like to make out)
  • 2010 was the first year in its 10-year history in Australia that Nielsen BookScan reported a decline in book sales by mainstream retailers
  • Anecdotal evidence in the local book industry suggests around 10-15% (possibly more) of book sales to Australian consumers are from overseas online retailers and the current strong Australian dollar and visibility of price differentials mean this proportion is growing
  • Some in industry point to poor management on REDgroup’s part but there’s no denying that factors mentioned above have played a role in the chain’s decision to go into voluntary administration
  • Anecdotally REDgroup’s ebook offering (on the Kobo platform) was an area of growth
  • Majority of local bookshops that offer online sales facilities report growth in this area each year
  • Local booksellers who sell only online report huge growth each year
  • Around 60 Angus & Robertson stores are franchises, which are not in fact owned by REDgroup but simply pay REDgroup for marketing and use of Angus & Robertson name
  • REDgroup company owns the remaining 100-plus Angus & Robertson stores in Australia
  • REDgroup owns Borders stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore
  • REDgroup owns Whitcoulls stores in New Zealand
  • REdgroup reported a loss of $43 million for the financial year 2009-10
  • The company has gone into voluntary administration, not receivership
  • Administrators Ferrier Hodgson intend to meet with REDgroup creditors in first week of March
  • REDgroup is owned by private equity firm PEP
  • REDgroup stores represent approximately 23% of the Australian book market
  • REDgroup’s 2010 revenue was over $500 million
  • Most in the industry were expecting a contraction in the local book retail market, even before REDgroup news
  • A contraction in local book retailers will have flow-on effects for local publishers
  • All REDgroup stores are open and continuing to trade under administrators.

Round-up of stories on REDgroup entering voluntary administration

 

UPDATE

For the most detailed reports on the REDgroup administration process over the past few months see the Bookseller+Publisher website.

 

 

As reported by the Weekly Book Newsletter yesterday, REDgroup Retail, owner of Borders, Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, has been placed in voluntary administration. Here is a round-up of recent media coverage:

General news

Borders, Angus & Robertson go bust’ by Eli Greenblat, The Age, WA Today, SMH and Brisbane Times, 17 February 2011

Borders, Angus & Robertson parent Redgroup Retail in voluntary administration’, by Blair Speedy, The Australian, 17 February 2011

Angus & Robertson enters administration’, ABC News, 17 February 2011

Borders, A&R stores in administration’ by Antonia Magee, Herald Sun and News.com.au, 17 February 2011

Borders and Whitcoulls put under administration’, by TVNZ, 17 February 2011

Borders bankruptcy spreads to US and Australia’, by The Guardian, UK, 17 February 2011

Dark chapter for booksellers’, by Blair Speedy and Stephen Romei, The Australian, 18 February 2011

Internet spells the death of bookstores’, by Peter Lloyd, ABC News, 18 February 2011

Owners move to salvage Borders, Angus & Robertson’, by Eli Greenblat, Jason Steger & Chris Zappone, The Age, 18 February 2011

Online shoppers write unhappy ending for Borders, Angus & Robertson’, by Eli Greenblat, Jason Steger & Chris Zappone, SMH, 18 February 2011

Borders and Angus &Robertson in hands of administrators’, by Tim Dornin, The Advertiser, Adelaide, 18 February 2011

Online closes the books’, by Antonia Magee, Tony Grant-Taylor & Lizzie Stafford, The Courier-Mail, 18 February 2011

Whitcoulls workers’ future uncertain’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 18 February 2011

Whitcoulls stores face closure’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 18  February 2011

Poor success rate for voluntary administration, says insolvency specialist’, by Tamsyn Parker,  NZ Herald, 18 February 2011

Borders, Whitcoulls under administration’, Stuff.co.nz, 18 February 2011

Technology blamed for Whitcoulls’ troubles’, by TVNZ, 18 February 2011

Troubled Whitcoulls issues voucher rules’, by TVNZ, 18 February 2011

Double trouble for holders of Borders’ gift vouchers’, by Chris Zappone, SMH, 18 February 2011

UPDATE

Internet blamed as booksellers enter administration’, by Peter Lloyd, Lateline, ABC, 17 February 2011

Nine Whitcoulls jobs threatened’, by Laurel Stowell, Wanganui Chronicle, 18 February 2011

Conroy links online retail to job losses’, ABC News, 18 February 2011

Borders, Angus & Robertson out of step, out of time: independents’, by Jason Steger, The Age, 18 February 2011

Book voucher auctions pulled’, by William Mace, Stuff.co.nz, 18 February 2011

Local shelf life looks good’, by Brian Ward, The Mercury, Tasmania, 18 February 2011

Book stores struggle as online sales rise’, by Greg Hoy, The 7:30 Report, ABC, 18 February 2011

Whitcoulls’ fate rests on two meetings’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 19 February 2011

Cuts loom as publishers rip into management’, by Tom Dusevic & Stephen Romei, The Australian, 19 February 2011

Shorten closes book on imports’, by Sid Maher & Blair Speedy, The Australian, 19 February 2011

Borders demise not just down to net, say booksellers’, by Jason Steger & Paris Cowan, SMH, 19 February 2011

Book gifts that keep on taking’, by Holly Ife, Herald Sun, 19 February 2011

Bookstores beef up security in face of fury’, by Isaac Davison, NZ Herald, 19 February 2011

Union to meet administrator over bookshop chains’, by NZPA, Stuff.co.nz, 19 February 2011

Site rationalisation’ may be on cards for REDgroup’, by Claire Rogers, The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, 19 February 2011

Little stores find safety in niches’, by John Mangan, The Age, 20 February 2011

Book business is its own worst enemy’, by Darren Osborne, Technology and Games, ABC Online, 21 February 2011

Malls to get in on the online shopping act’, by Bridget Carter, The Australian, 21 February 2011

TALKING POINT Books policy too contradictory to be true’, by The Australian, 21 February 2011

Staff sure Borders is not closing down here’, by Jing Yng, TODAYonline, Singapore, 21 February 2011

Administrator to honour cancelled vouchers’, by Chris Zappone, SMH‎, 21 February 2011

Whitcoulls staff advised to stay put’, by NZPA, NZ Herald, 21 February 2011

Struggling book industry only has itself to blame’, by Darren Osborne, The Drum, ABC, 21 February 2011

$830 hr to save bookshops’, by Isaac Davison, NZ Herald, 22 February 2011

Business as usual at Borders Singapore’, by AsiaOne, 22 February 2011

REDgroup executives resigned after loss’, by Tamsyn Parker & John Drinnan, NZ Herald, 22 February 2011

New chapter for book store’, by Sally Foy, Batemans Bay Post, 23 February 2011

Business as usual for local book store’, by Great Lakes Advocate, 23 February 2011

A&R voucher fight gets aggressive’, by Mark Bode, Sunshine Coast Daily, 23 February 2011

Angus & Robertson still trading’, by Jaime Newborn, Daily Mercury, 23 February 2011

Continue reading

Kobo launch: forget about the device, look at the titles

[a version of this article first appeared in Crikey on Friday 21 May as a subscriber-only story. Many thanks to Crikey and its editor Sophie Black for permission to reproduce it here on Fancy Goods—TC]

As the REDgroup rolls out its Kobo ebooks platform, let’s forget about the device for a moment and look instead at the title offer. Mainstream media stories seemed to be all about the Kobo ereader, but this launch represents a notable step in the development of a local ebook market not because of the gizmo but because it’s the first time an ebook retailer has been able to offer a significant range of Australian ebooks to sell, across a range of reading devices. (Dymocks, of course, was a pioneer in launching its ebook offer in 2007, but Dymocks arguably went too early and have been held back thus far by a lack of local content …)

The Kobo reader itself is cheap—at $199 it’s pretty much the cheapest dedicated ereader on the market, and it is pretty basic. But that’s not really the point: ereading is quickly moving away from proprietary devices and multiple formats toward files in a standard format (ePub) that can be read on a range of devices. One of Kobo’s stated advantages is that it is cross-platform: Kobo promises that its ePub titles—while still being restricted/protected by Digital Rights Management to prevent copying/sharing—will be able to be read on a range of devices from smartphones to tablets to laptops to desktop PCs. And if you have ePub or PDF files from other sources, they should be readable on the Kobo reader or in the Kobo apps.  (Frustratingly, if you have already bought yourself a Kindle from Amazon &/or you have Kindle ebook files downloaded on your computer or iPhone, you probably won’t be able to easily read those on the Kobo reader … Amazon supplies its ebooks in a proprietary format that ties them to either the Kindle reader device or Kindle app.)

But what about the list of titles on offer? Kobo seems to have energised and engaged with Australian publishers in a way that the overseas players (Kindle, Apple, etc) haven’t so far. Australian readers will now be able to go to one place to buy ebook versions of books published by up to 100 local publishers, ranging from the local offerings of the multinationals: HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Pan Macmillan and Hachette, for example; to books from Allen & Unwin (which has offered many of its titles as ebooks for a number of years), MUP, UQP, Scribe, Text and many others from Australia’s diverse independent publishers. ‘The offer is about us trying to offer as many Australian titles on this open platform as we can,’ REDgroup’s communications manager Malcolm Neil said. Here are some authors whose titles you can buy now on Kobo you can’t (yet) get on Kindle: Kate Grenville, Shane Maloney, Peter Temple, Malcolm Knox, Thomas Kenneally … Continue reading

Excuse us while we take a moment…

We’re pretty snowed under here at Bookseller+Publisher headquarters, putting the finishing touches on the July issue after getting out this week’s bumper issue of the Weekly Book Newsletter.

Last week, Matthia was sweating it out at Darwin’s Wordstorm writers festival (you can read her post on Wordstorm here) and this week Andrea is soaking up Sydney Writers Festival (and heading to tonight’s Book Design Awards to see what titles are declared Australia’s best-looking: see the contenders here). This is what Andrea’s desk looks like now:

Also, as we reported in the Weekly Book Newsletter, REDgroup Retail, which owns Borders Asia-Pacific (and Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls in New Zealand), launched its Kobo ebook platform yesterday, as well as its Kobo ereader: Continue reading

The week that was: Friday round-up

The longlist of that iconic award, the Miles Franklin was announced this week, with the ratio of male to female authors—that’d be nine men versus three women—troubling some (especially following the recent Australia Post author stamps controversy). The fact that a woman won this year’s regional Commonwealth Writers Prize, the announcement of this year’s Orange Prize longlist and the presentation of the Barbara Jefferis award for ‘the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society’ made up some ground. (Though this might have tipped things back again.)

There was controversy in the form of a book-related defamation case and a footballer’s memoir, a new batch of Popular Penguins were unveiled and the poms admitted we are better at cricket than they are (on the book front anyway).

The 7.30 Report took a look at ebooks (the mainstream media also having just got wind of the fact that Borders and Angus & Robertson will soon be selling them).

Oh, and an author is in the running for this year’s Cleo Bachelor of the Year ….