Tuesday, December 17th, 2019.
With only days before Christmas the book retailer The Book People has fallen into administration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) taking on the task of finding a buyer or company rescue writes Harry Mottram.
However the retailer who sells £50m of books, toys, stationery and gifts annually and employs 393 staff will continue trading for the time being said PwC.
Toby Underwood, of PwC said: “I appreciate the obvious concerns that staff in particular will have as we move towards Christmas. Whilst the administrators have funding to meet the payroll for December, the longer-term prospects for the business, staff, customers and suppliers will clearly be dependent upon whether a sale can be secured.”
Founded in 1988 in Godalming, Surrey, The Book People is owned by the private equity firm Endless since 2014, had sales of £71.5m in 2017, but since then profits have fallen from £6.2m the previous year to just £1.1m. Crucially the company had more than £33m of debts at the time which will have eaten into their profitability.
Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said concerns had been raised for some time by ICSM members. This morning Sky News’s Mark Kleinman reported the firm was in trouble. He wrote: “Sources said that the accountancy firm had been overseeing an auction of The Book People in recent weeks as Endless tried to secure a buyer. They added that a number of ‘credible’ parties had expressed an interest in a deal.”
The proprietor of ICSM Credit said although book sales are holding up in general competition from supermarkets and online retailers had cut into the traditional publishing market and was ‘a sign of the times.’
The company initially began as a one man band with a van leaving books on a sale or return basis in offices in Surrey but within two years the operation had 140 distributors and by 1998 had an online store and a mail-order catalogue. Offices were opened in Haydock and a warehouse opened in Bangor as the company peeked with 600 staff just three years ago. In September 2014, Endless LLP, a UK-based equity investor, backed a management buy-out of the company.
PwC have confirmed that all orders for Christmas will be honoured, the staff will continue being paid while the firm will continue trading for the time being.
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For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk