We noted in late July that RedGroup–the dominant bookseller in Australia and New Zealand under the Whitcoulls, Angus & Robertson and Borders ANZ operations–was talking to its lenders about getting a waiver from an expected breach of their borrowing covenants. (Even so, they were reportedly projecting ebitda of approximately $25 million AU for their fiscal year ending in late August.)
A new story in Crikey cites industry sources whom claim the group “has been forced to jack up prices, increase returns and extend trading terms with its suppliers.” One anonymous publisher says the chains have asked for 120 days to pay, “which nobody is prepared to give them,” cutting fall press runs by as much as 30 percent instead.
Publisher of Bookseller+Publisher Tim Coronel says the group recently finished a “big return push” prior to the end of their fiscal year. “The admission they made recently is telling, because they definitely have a big debt burden. RedGroup are playing it down, saying it may have been overplayed. But they’re definitely under pressure.”
RedGroup spokesperson Malcolm Neil says, “We’re a sale or return business. When you are in a tough market everyone has to share the pain.” He adds, “retail across the board is really struggling. You’ve got to work harder for every dollar of sales than ever before.”
Like Barnes & Noble and Indigo, the group is spending to promote the Kobo e-reader. Some comments on the story suggest that Australia and New Zealand’s physical stores are finally feeling the impact of online bookselling, after years of being shielded from Amazon’s impact.
Also in bookselling, we’re reminded that reading articles and clipping out snippets is more nuanced than you might think. This morning there were some happy tweets that New York bookseller McNally Jackson is getting an Espresso book machine soon, “by the time 2011 rolls around.”
But for us the news is the acknowledgment the back-to-the-futuristic still doesn’t seem to have a firm delivery date for the machine that was supposed to be in place at McNally Jackson a year ago. Sarah McNally tells the Observer “there have been technical issues, but I believe we are on track.” On Demand ceo Dane Neller still talks about the machine as a distribution mechanism for publishers, even as real-world evidence from some of the machines in place indicates customers like them as self-publishing machines. He claims they plan to expand “heavily” in New York–which seems like the last place where you need a bunch of discreet machines, rather than a single high-capacity POD machine serving multiple accounts.