Yesterday, Crikey reported on a stoush between Angus & Robertson and its publishers/distributors. The fight was sparked when the book chain issued an ultimatum to book suppliers by letter: cough up or we won’t stock you. 

Today, Angus & Robertson responds:

Dear Crikey and Crikey Subscribers,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the issues raised in your online newspaper yesterday. I have also received many emails from concerned readers and I am doing my utmost to respond to these people personally.

I understand that Crikey and its readers are alarmed by the negotiations that Angus & Robertson is currently seeking with a number of its suppliers. I also understand that the correspondence sent to some of our suppliers has caused offence.

I completely acknowledge that the tone of this correspondence was inappropriate, and I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on our intentions.

Firstly, I would like to assure you that the negotiations that are taking place between Angus & Robertson and our suppliers are not intended to have any impact on Australian authors and are purely about reaching a commercial arrangement with publishers.

Angus & Robertson is a major retailer of Australian titles, with 30% of top selling lines made up by Australian authors. It is vital that we have a sustainable business that can continue supporting Australian authors over the long term.

Over the past three years we have invested over $14 million in the growth and expansion of our business to bolster the industry and ensure accessibility and value for our customers. Despite our best efforts, we too are under increasing pressure to survive as we are squeezed by major department stores and online stores, resulting in our company-owned stores making an operating cash loss this year.

As a commercial business, we have the right to make decisions about which suppliers we do business with. In our negotiations with suppliers, we are the customer. Unfortunately we cannot work with every publisher in Australia, particularly if the relationship is not commercially viable for us.

To give you some context, we currently have 1,200 suppliers to our business and have sent letters to 47 of those whom we hope to hold discussions with over the coming weeks. The payments we have requested from those suppliers represent a gap payment for profits that were lost or costs that were incurred as a result of our commercial relationship with those particular suppliers.

We are trying to operate a successful bookstore chain and if we cannot strike a balance that allows us to maintain our retail operations, the impacts on the industry will be far greater if we are forced to close stores or drastically cut down titles.

Again, let me assure you that this is not about penalising authors. It is about establishing commercial arrangements with our suppliers that are viable for both parties and that allow us to offer the best value to our customers.

Over the past year we have hosted an increased number of in-store author events allowing our customers to meet and interact with new authors from smaller publishing companies, or those starting out with an initial book.

This is in addition to personal relationships hundreds of authors have with their local Angus & Robertson, many of them finding an opportunity to promote their titles to their local communities through our bookstores. We also have a history of selling self-published books to great success.

I do hope that this goes some way to explaining our position and I assure you Angus & Robertson remains very committed to selling Australian published books from a large range of Australian publishers, large and small.

Best regards,

Dave Fenlon