Bookstore another victim of public sector cuts

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 01/11/2012

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Public sector spending cuts and evolving technology are claiming another victim, with the long-established Bennetts Government Bookshop closing its doors.

Managing director Geoff Spong led a buyout of the Bennetts chain from the administrators of Whitcoulls last year, with most of the shops focused on selling academic textbooks.

The Government Bookshop was a rundown site that "had almost become a dollar-discount remainder" store, he said.

The company had spent money trying to boost sales, but had decided to focus on its primary business of serving universities and polytechs.

"We've worked hard over the last 18 months to refresh the store, change the stock offering, but at some point there's only so much money in the till at the end of the week, and we thought it was sensible to refocus on other core markets," Spong said.

The store will hold a closing-down sale on November 12 and close at the end of the month.

Sales to the Government have suffered both from austerity and improvements in technology.

In 1996 the store, located in the ground floor of Bowen House, struggled to keep up with demand for copies of the historic National-NZ First coalition agreement.

Now the internet has made most official documents freely available to anyone with a computer, at a time when the public sector is being squeezed for savings.

"The Government is obviously watching its pennies, spending by government departments is down, and they know legislation is free online," Spong said. "That side of the business is certainly slowing down."

Demand still exists, however. Despite this year's Budget document being freely available online, sales of hard copies dropped by only 5 per cent, he said. "A lot of people still like the printed form."

Bennetts will launch a specialist website this month to cater for government and professional sales, with much of that business already taking place by phone or email.

Sales of textbooks and stationery to students were surprisingly resilient, he said. "Students are still buying a lot of books."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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