Just four weeks out from Christmas, retail chains Co-op Bookshop and Curious Planet (the latter of which was recently rebranded from Australian Geographic) have fallen into administration, with an “urgent review” of their operations underway.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed on Tuesday morning (26 November) that it had been appointed as voluntary administrators of the retailers’ parent company, University Co-Operative Bookshop Limited, and its subsidiary, Co Info Pty Ltd.
Currently, there are 34 Co-op Bookshop stores operating in Australia, and 63 stores nationwide under the Curious Planet brand.
According to Phil Carter, joint administrator with colleagues Andrew Scott and Daniel Walley, the Co-op Bookshop has “been a successful and integral part of university life for generations of Australians”, garnering more than 2 million members over its six decades in operation.
“We are currently undertaking an urgent review of the business in order to stabilise its relationships with key stakeholders and ensure that the store network enjoys a successful Christmas trading period,” Mr Carter said.
“We intend to keep all Co-op Bookshop and Curious Planet stores operating on a business as usual basis while we seek interested parties for the sale of the business on a going concern basis.”
Business blames weak retail conditions, shift to digital
The Co-op’s chairman, Joe Merhi, blamed the business’ struggles on a “combination of weak retail trading figures coming up to Christmas and the collapse of ‘over-the-counter textbook’ sales”, which he said had plummeted by more than 40 per cent over the past year alone.
“[This] has left the board with no alternative but to appoint a voluntary administrator to help this proud organisation through this period of time, leading up to Christmas,” Mr Merhi said.
“The massive decline in the purchase of textbooks has meant that the board need to diligently and proactively address the potential risks of trading in the Christmas period.”
According to its website, the Co-op Bookshop is “Australia’s largest member-owned retailer”, having been created by students in 1958. It claims to be the largest seller of both tertiary and professional educational materials in the country, including textbooks as well as more generalist books, stationary and other products.
As of 11.30am on Tuesday, the site claimed to have 2,156,784 members, and was still selling lifetime memberships for $25.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.