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Angus & Robertson franchisees’ future uncertain amid more closures

Thursday, 16 June 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Angus & Robertson administrator Ferrier Hodgson says it expects to close a deal on the chain’s 19 remaining company-owned stores within a fortnight, while negotiations continue in relation to the 48 franchisee-owned stores.

 

The news comes on the back of an announcement that 42 Angus & Robertson stores will close within four weeks, resulting in 519 job losses, including 429 store positions.

 

The move will see 13 store closures in Queensland, 10 in NSW, nine in Victoria, four in WA, three in Tasmania and three in South Australia.

 

Ferrier Hodgson partner John Melluish says he is in talks to sell the remaining 19 company-owned Angus & Robertson stores, expecting a deal to be finalised within a fortnight.

 

“[Meanwhile,] negotiations continue with a number of book retailing specialists in relation to both the franchise network and the online business,” Melluish said in a statement.

 

Dymocks and Collins Booksellers have both been nominated as potential buyers for the A&R chain, owned by REDgroup retail, which also owns the Borders bookstore chain.

 

Both companies are said to be interested in the A&R franchisee-owned stores, particularly in light of the recent recruitment challenges facing the franchise sector.

 

It’s unclear whether a new owner would keep the A&R brand or fold the franchise into an existing brand.

 

It’s also been suggested the A&R franchisees might band together to buy the brand, although no franchisees have been able to comment on this due to a gagging order.

 

Jason Gehrke, director of the Franchise Advisory Centre, says a buyout would be a logical step for the A&R franchisees because “they have the most to lose and consequently the most to gain”.

 

In future instances where franchisees are caught up in the collapse of a business, Gehrke says he would like to see a more coordinated effort from administrators to engage franchisees.

 

Gehrke says the A&R franchisees might actually do well if a trade buyer comes through, assuming the different cultures can blend together.

 

However, he says it is unlikely the sale of a franchise network would prompt a resetting of franchise agreements because most agreements are linked to lease agreements, rather than an ownership agreement.

 

The announcement of further A&R store closures follows an announcement at the start of the month that the nine remaining Borders stores would close.

 

When REDgroup fell into voluntary administration in February, its assets included 25 Borders stores, 78 company-owned Angus & Robertson stores and 51 franchisee-owned stores, plus online businesses for both the Borders and A&R brands.