Last week Woolworths officially filed for bankruptcy is here, with distributor EUK going into receivership along with the Woolworths’ stores division. Improbably, book distributor Bertram’s appears to have been spared, even though it was always listed as part of the EUK division. Deloitte, which had been advising Woolworths’ lenders over the past month, was appointed administrator.
Bertram’s, along with Woolworth’s 2Entertain joint venture with the BBC, is reportedly operating normally for now, though it will be sold as part of the liquidation of Woolworths assets. Bertram’s says on their web site, “Bertram’s management has been in contact with Deloitte, which has confirmed its intention that Bertrams is to continue to operate as a going concern until a new owner for the group is found.”
Hilco UK, which has considered buying Woolworths’ stores before the bankruptcy is running the stores in the meantime but says they are no longer interested in a purchase. UK newspapers report that multiple chains are interested in buying some of Woolworths’ stores, if not the whole group. But the FT says “there are more serious doubts that a buyer will be found for EUK, Woolworths’ wholesale arm, which sells CDs, DVDs and books to a number of supermarkets. With suppliers to EUK owed millions of pounds and its customers looking to source products directly, the value of the business is being eroded every day.”
EUK owes considerable sums to publishers, and there is scramble to figure out how to supply big customers like Tesco and Asda with books for what remains of the holiday buying season. Some traditional trade retailers see potential for gaining sales if the supply of books to the supermarkets is restricted.