Restructuring firm reviews Borders UK's store portfolio

Borders UK floats idea of ditching weaker stores

Borders UK has appointed a restructuring company to advise it on how to close some of its underperforming stores, raising questions about the future of the bookseller.

The Independent has learned that Borders UK, which was bought by the private equity company Risk Capital Partners in 2007, has been working with RSM Bentley Jennison to review a range of potential restructuring options.

One option that has been floated would see Borders UK continue trading, but with fewer stores. There is no suggestion Borders UK itself is in trouble, though it is understood to be keen to reshape its store estate in order to eliminate less profitable outlets in locations such as out-of-town retail parks.

Risk Capital's Luke Johnson, who is also chairman of Channel 4, refused to discuss his plans for Borders UK. Tony Stockdale, the national managing partner of RSM Bentley Jennison, also declined to comment yesterday.

Among the company's total portfolio of Borders and Books etc stores, a number of stores in popular locations are thought to be trading robustly, but others are finding trading challenging, according to market sources.

Risk Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Borders UK in September 2007. The deal was structured so that Risk Capital Partners paid an initial £10m, with a further deferred payment of £10m to follow. The acquisition included all 41 Borders superstores in the UK, the Borders superstore in Ireland and all 28 Books etc stores in the UK. However, since the acquisition, Borders UK has offloaded some of its Books etc stores.

According to its website, Borders UK currently has 41 of its core Borders stores, eight Books etc outlets and two Borders Express shops. Speculation has been swirling around Borders UK for sometime, partly over concerns about credit insurers reducing cover to publishers to supply it with books.

However, last December, Mr Johnson denied that Borders UK was considering a pre-pack administration specifically to reduce liabilities on its Books etc stores, when contacted by The Independent.

At that time, he said in an email response: "We have been steadily rationalising our Books etc store base and have exited a number of Books etc sites, but there are no further disposals currently planned. We are absolutely not planning any form of pre-pack administration of Books etc."

Like many retailers, Borders UK has suffered from some of its suppliers' credit insurance cover being scaled back by Euler Hermes, one of the UK's biggest insurers.

Last December, The Bookseller, the trade magazine, said that Euler Hermes was withdrawing its cover for suppliers to Borders UK and the retailer The Book People from 31 December. At least one distributor responded by advising its clients to reconsider their trading limits, reported The Bookseller.

According to an email that The Bookseller claimed to have seen, Euler Hermes UK said that "the information we currently hold does not justify maintaining the historic levels of cover being provided on this company" in light of the "challenging" economic conditions in the UK.

Amazon, the supermarkets and the death of Harry Potter

It was not only the author JK Rowling's army of fans who shed a tear upon learning that her final Harry Potter book would be published in 2007. The UK's booksellers have also mourned the loss of a blockbuster stream of revenues.

But there are many other reasons why specialist booksellers are finding life tough in a market where overall sales are declining. The most notable contributors to an unhappy storyline for UK booksellers are the big grocers, such as Tesco and Asda, offering glossy best-sellers and the inexorable shift to consumers buying their books online at

Jonathan de Mello, the director of the retail consultancy at Experian, said: "The main reason is that the [bricks and mortar book] market has been massively eroded by the internet. On the internet you don't have to pay for fixed costs, such as for stores and staff." One of the sector's stronger players, Waterstone's said that like-for-like sales declined by 4.5 per cent for the 16 weeks ended 25 April, reflecting an overall book market down by about 4 per cent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...