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Book People goes into administration, with almost 400 jobs at risk | Books


The Book People, the online and pop-up bookseller, has gone into administration only a week before Christmas, putting almost 400 jobs at risk.

The retailer, which was founded in Godalming, Surrey, in 1988 by two book enthusiasts, Ted Smart and Seni Glaister, appointed advisers from PwC as administrators on Tuesday.

The administrators said there would be no immediate job losses and that Christmas orders already placed by customers would be fulfilled.

The discount bookseller makes 70% of its sales online, delivered from its warehouse in Bangor, and is thought to have suffered from heavy competition from Amazon. It also sells direct to schools and businesses, hosting pop-up shops in workplaces. It recently launched the Big Book Boost programme, which aimed to donate more than a million books to schools by 2022.

Toby Underwood, joint administrator and a partner at PwC, said The Book People would continue to trade as a rapid sale of the business was explored.

“The intention is to fulfil and deliver all customer orders received and accepted,” Underwood said.

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“I appreciate the obvious concerns that staff in particular will have as we move towards Christmas. While 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.”

The business, which has been owned by the private equity firm Endless since 2014, made sales of £71.5m in 2017, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Profits tumbled to £1.1m from £6.2m a year before. The company had more than £33m of debts at the time.

James Woolley, a partner at Endless, told Sky News, which first revealed The Book People’s troubles: “The well-documented challenges in the retail environment compounded by the strength of global online booksellers, has severely impacted operating cashflows over recent years.”

The Book People is one of a number of retailers forced into administration or restructure during a tough run into Christmas for UK retailers who have been affected by political and economic uncertainty relating to Brexit and the general election.

Low consumer confidence has combined with rising costs and the shift to online shopping to push many retailers into difficulties over the last 18 months.

In recent weeks uncertainty has piled on the pressure for retailers such as the Book People, which are particularly reliant on Christmas sales. Last month, books, toys and craft retailer The Works issued a profit warning blaming a difficult consumer backdrop while card specialist Clintons called in administrators as part of a rescue restructure earlier this month.

However, the problems have spread right across the retail spectrum. Earlier this month, camera retailer Jessops called in administrators following Mothercare’s UK arm, fashion chain Bonmarché and jewellery group Links of London which have all done the same in recent months.



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