Greed, business and bookselling

Australian book retail chain Angus & Robertson (A&R) has got itself in the poo. The mainstream media (Fairfax) ran stories briefly (08 August) about A&R attempting to screw its suppliers by demanding payments to cover their ‘gap’ in profitability. To put it more clearly, Angus & Robertson is using the same sort of approach that Australian supermarkets have to the products they carry — ‘pay us to stock your product or go away’. More detail can be found in an article at Crikey (subscription). Suppliers/publishers who don’t yield enough volume profit for the bookseller retailer are being billed for large sums in order to obtain the right to continue to supply the retailer.

I’ve heard that a representative of A&R stood up at the Australian Booksellers’ Association conference a few weeks back and said something to the effect of ‘we aren’t a bookseller, we’re a retailer’ and more about profits and products. So there we have it.

Two of the suppliers mentioned in media coverage are Tower Books and Thames & Hudson. They are prominent in areas such as architecture, art, design, some literature and more (including many French-published food titles). If A&R loses Tower Books (and they seem to have, given the correspondence between them) one would assume that no Taschen books will be available from A&R (Taschen do all sorts of popular books on art and artists, design, culture and photography) as Tower is the Australian supplier. The same is the case for DC Comics. And Thames & Hudson has an impressive catalogue of titles in similar areas. It would seem that A&R doesn’t deserve anyone’s business if they think selling books is about extorting money from suppliers and only giving consumers whatever A&R deems massively profitable enough to bother with.

UPDATE: A nice description of A&R’s greed and various parts of the correspondence can be found at Lightbulb

– DM

7 thoughts on “Greed, business and bookselling”

  1. This is certainly a particularly brazen example of it, isn’t it Amelita! No signs of them backing down yet.

  2. What a pity A&G don’t realise that part of the reason that people go back to big bookstores like them is because they’re able to provide, or order in, books that you can’t always find elsewhere. It’s one thing to stock all the best sellers, and I’m sure it’s a big part of what keeps the business running. But surely they’d admit that stocking a wide range of books is a significant drawcard for customers too, even if they don’t all sell.

  3. Tell me about it. I have been trying to order a cookbook called Vietnam and what do you know, they don’t stock it and it would be terribly difficult for them to order it for me.

  4. Several friends of ours, quite independently of each other have already said that they will be boycotting A&R stores. There are other stores far more willing to assist without a mind solely focussed on profit. My local Dymocks for example regularly orders books from overseas and sources hard to find cookbooks (ie reprint of the original of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management) without even requesting a deposit. Needless to say they now have a loyal customer!

  5. ‘we aren’t a bookseller, we’re a retailer’

    “Oh I am sorry your in the wrong meeting!

    Would someone please lead these poor disillusioned into a corner and offer them some ice cream? “

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