Whitcoulls, Borders sold to Norman family

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 15:15 26/05/2011
IN TROUBLE: Booksellers say it wasn't online shopping that did REDgroup in  it was poor business practice.
The Dominion Post
IN TROUBLE: Booksellers say it wasn't online shopping that did REDgroup in it was poor business practice.

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Whitcoulls gift vouchers are likely to continue to be redeemable following the sale of the business to New Zealand interests.

The Norman family, owners of the Farmers department stores and a raft of Australasian jewellery stores, bought the 57 Whitcoulls and five Borders shops from administrator Ferrier Hodgson for a confidential sum.

David Norman told BusinessDay the company would ''almost certainly'' honour all existing vouchers and gift cards at full face value once the deal is complete.

He also confirmed that customers would not have to spend a similar amount to redeem their vouchers, which caused an enormous customer backlash shortly after the Whitcoulls, Borders and Bennetts bookstores were put into voluntary administration by their previous owners REDgroup Retail. 

Administrators Ferrier Hodgson said in a statement this afternoon that the sale shows a market still exists for quality assets with widely recognised brands like Whitcoulls and Borders.

Ferrier Hodgson partner Steve Sherman said the voluntary administration process had played a key role in saving the businesses by providing a stable environment to restructure the assets and provide the opportunity for a sale.

''This is a very good result,'' he said. 

''The sale guarantees the future of the majority of stores and has preserved more than 900 jobs. The James Pascoe Group is known for reviving businesses and has a strong record of investment in their stores, stock and people.''

Staff were told of the sale this afternoon, and David Norman said store closures would be avoided ''if at all possible'' but it was too early to be definitive on that. 

Ian Draper, the former managing director of Whitcoulls and then the REDgroup, will be chief executive officer/managing director designate.

''Ian has been working with JPL [James Pascoe Ltd] during the due diligence phase of the process and has demonstrated both passion and zeal that we know will be welcomed back by the team at Whitcoulls and Borders,'' Norman said.

Ten Whitcoulls stores at New Zealand airports were sold last month to travel retail specialist LS Travel Retail Pacific.  The stores - five in Auckland, two in Wellington and Christchurch and one in Rotorua - were to be renamed under the new owner's Relay brand.

The Bennetts chain of eight stores located in New Zealand universities was last month bought by an entity owned by private Kiwi investor Geoff Spong.

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The Normans own Pascoes, Stewart Dawsons, Prouds, Goldmark and Angus & Coote, plus Farmers  which they bought in 2003  and Stevens homeware.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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