Co-Op bookshops are set to disappear.
Co-Op bookshops are set to disappear.

Iconic Aussie bookshop set to disappear

The Co-Op Bookshop will soon become a thing of the past as Australia's "retail apocalypse" shows no sign of slowing.

The popular university textbook chain, which was founded by Sydney students in 1959, revealed its shock collapse in December, with debts totalling about $15 million.

Today, administrators PwC revealed the chain had been sold to Australian online book retailer Booktopia.

Under the sale, Co-Op will continue to operate in the early weeks of the university semester as part of a transition process - but ultimately, the Co-Op brand's days are numbered.

Co-Op administrators Phil Carter, Andy Scott and Daniel Walley of PwC confirmed in a statement that Booktopia had bought "various assets" of the company after an "extensive sale process".

The Co-Op bookshop brand will come to an end within weeks.
The Co-Op bookshop brand will come to an end within weeks.

They revealed administrators would continue to operate the Co-Op stores for a period of up to two months to maximise sales - and ensure an "orderly transition" to Booktopia during the first semester of the 2020 university year.

"The agreement with Booktopia is a positive outcome and was reached following a rigorous sales process conducted on behalf of the creditors of the Co-Op," Mr Carter said.

"Under the agreement, the administrators will keep the Co-Op bookshops open during the first month of each university semester to ensure a smooth transition and to meet the heightened demand of students during this busy period."

Co-Op has more than 30 branches across the country with about 200 employees, although it is understood the stores are no longer considered to be sustainable.

RETAIL WOES

The Co-Op news comes as a slew of other high-profile Australian businesses folded in the first weeks of 2020.

It started early on January 7 when it was revealed department store Harris Scarfe was set to shut 21 stores across five states over the course of just one month after the retailer was placed in receivership in December.

Just days later, McWilliam's Wines - the country's sixth-largest wine company that has been run by the same family for more than 140 years - announced it had also appointed voluntary administrators.

Then it was popular video game chain EB Games' turn, with the business confirming it was closing at least 19 stores across the country within weeks, while fashion chain Bardot is also planning to shutter 58 stores across the nation by March.

EB Games will close at least 19 Aussie stores. Picture: AAP Image/Matt Loxton
EB Games will close at least 19 Aussie stores. Picture: AAP Image/Matt Loxton

In January it also emerged Curious Planet - the educational retailer previously known as Australian Geographic, which is owned by parent company Co-op Bookshop - would pull 63 stores across Australia after failing to find a buyer for the brand, while denim chain Jeanswest entered voluntary administration that month and tech giant Bose also revealed it would close all Australian stores and 119 across the globe largely as a result of the rise of online shopping.

The total confirmed number of bricks-and-mortar stores earmarked for closure has already risen to 161 this year alone.

The latest chain to fall was German supermarket Kaufland which pulled out of Australia before it had even begun.

Kaufland had invested millions into the expansion but made a hasty exit this year to focus on its European offerings.

2020s dismal first fortnight for retail follows a horror 2019 that brought the collapse of a slew of Aussie businesses, with some international players also folding in recent months.

Last January, menswear retailer Ed Harry went into voluntary administration, and a week later, Aussie sportswear favourite Skins also revealed it was on the brink of failure after applying for bankruptcy in a Swiss court.

At the end of the month, the Napoleon Perdis beauty empire announced the cult make-up chain's 56 Aussie stores had closed for stocktake. Administrators were appointed, and scores of stores have since collapsed.

Footwear trailblazer Shoes of Prey also met its demise in March last year along with British fashion giant Karen Millen, which in September revealed it would soon shut all Aussie stores, leaving around 80 jobs in peril.

While 21 Harris Scarfe department stores will shutter. Picture: Brendan Radke
While 21 Harris Scarfe department stores will shutter. Picture: Brendan Radke

In October, celebrity chef Shannon Bennett's Melbourne burger chain Benny Burger was also placed into administration, followed by seven Red Rooster outlets in Queensland just days later and then Aussie activewear sensation Stylerunner, which has since been sold to Accent Group Limited.

In November, it was revealed that popular furniture and homewares company Zanui was in trouble after it abruptly entered voluntary administration, leaving angry customers in the lurch.

Later that month, Muscle Coach, a leading fitness company, was put into voluntary administration after a director received a devastating diagnosis and the company racked up debts of almost $1 million.

Then it was the famous Criniti's restaurant chain's turn to enter into voluntary administration, with several of the 13 sites across the country set to close for good. It was closely followed by discount legend Dimmeys.