Any press good? Charlie Rimmer of A&R Whitcoulls Group, the holding company that owns the Angus & Robertson stores (or, at least, those not owned by franchisees), may not think so after reading a post on the Undercover blog.
Asked to pay for the privilege of displaying his books in A&R stores, Michael Rakusin, director of Tower Books Pty Ltd, sent the letter of demand to The Sydney Morning Herald plus his reply. Both are on the blog.
Rukusin says both David Jones and Myer cut small distributors from their book shelves. "We survived and prospered but" both stores' book departments now languish.
He has several demands to Rimmer's own. But Pacific Equity Partners, the investment firm that owns the chain, is unlikely to be sympathetic. The company "strives to deliver superior returns to [its] investors" and has a "distinctive approach", says the Web site. They "link rewards to investment returns", it goes on. But so do the 53 (at time of this posting) comments on Undercover. A few of the choisest bits follow.
Derek in his comment says: "I think it would be a mistake for people to boycott A&R without knowing whether the store is company or franchisee owned. I suspect most A&R franchisees would be horrified by the corporate arrogance displayed by Mr Rimmer."
KSC: "The Australian public will react by taking their book-buying dollars elsewhere."
Ray: "Since I don't know who are franchisees or company-owned stores I'll boycott all A&R bookstores."
Glenn White: "The letter from A&R seems to reflect the ethos for the whole business."
Natasha: "I never fail to be disappointed by visits to A&R bookstores. Now, I know why."
I'm with Natasha. The only thing that will get me into an Angus & Robertson store is a sale. The selection is heavily Anglo-centric, parochial, unimaginative, predictable, and depends heavily on new releases and bestsellers (see graphic).
Franchises try harder. Even the company's ordering system prevents A&R getting my business. Recently, I wanted a book on dementia I'd read so I could send it to mum. Her local A&R in Maroochydore would not order it in. I called a franchise in the inner west of Sydney, and they would.
The thing is that company-owned stores can only order from a prescribed list. If you want a book they don't list, then too bad. Go elsewhere.