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The Works looks to expand
22.08.08 | Tom Tivnan
The new chief executive of The Works has told The Bookseller that his aim is for the bargain books chain to return to its pre-administration glory, with plans to expand to 300 shops.
Anthony Solomon, who was brought in as chairman and c.e.o. in June by The Works’ new private equity owners Endless, is considering snapping up small chains as well as individual stores if the locations are suitable.
He said: "We have funds available for acquisitions and if opportunities are there we will be able to take advantage of them. The model is not to go into prime sites in city centres, but into prime secondary towns. The opportunities in those kinds of locations are endless."
The Works, which at its height had 317 shops and 1,600 members of staff, went into administration in January. In its last full year accounts to the end of April 2006, the company had racked up debts of £54m, despite a turnover of £92.3m. In March, administrators Kroll closed 85 of the chain’s shops and 450 members of staff were made redundant.
Retail entrepreneur Solomon, who previously headed the discount chain, The Original Factory Shop, said he aimed to bring The Works back to its core market of selling books, after several years of the chain selling other merchandise such as toys. It is testing its new book-centric model in two shops, with new point of sale and a more "user-friendly" floorplan.
Yet some analysts are unconvinced that The Works can expand. Richard Hyman, strategic adviser to Deloitte’s consumer business practice, said: "Discount bookstores are in a very difficult part of a difficult market. There is a retail climate in which discretionary purchasing is under the greatest threat."