Things we keep repeating




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



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, 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’,, 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


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,, 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,, 19 February 2011

Site rationalisation’ may be on cards for REDgroup’, by Claire Rogers, The Dominion Post,, 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

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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