Bertrams: business as usual

<p>If anyone doubted what an icon Woolworth's is on the high street they should check the Sun's Page 3 column, &quot;News in Briefs&quot; today. Stunner Rhian is apparently sad about yesterday's news, she said: &quot;It's unthinkable Woolies could disappear from the High Street. It's an institution . . .&quot;</p>
<p>When everyone from glamour models to the <a href="">BBC's Robert Peston</a> are on the case you can be assured that something big is happening.</p>
<p>Yet for the book business, Woolies, though it sold a small number of books,&nbsp; is clearly not the main story.</p>
<p>The supply from EUK to supermarkets will be publishers immediate biggest concern: the supermarkets are having a good Christmas, with sales of the big bestsellers such as Dawn French, Paul O'Grady, and <i>Guinness World Records </i>powering on even as the wider market has dipped.</p>
<p>It is our understanding that EUK is not supplying product today as the administrators look at the business. There's nothing unusual about this, though they'll need to get supply started again if they don't want to risk customers, i.e supermarkets, going elsewhere, or direct to publishers themselves. As one publisher told us: &quot;The key is for everyone to work out how we get books to the key outlets at this critical time of year.&quot;</p>
<p>Bertrams is continuing to supply, and retailers expect to receive stock.&nbsp; Neil Jewsbury, Waterstone&rsquo;s commercial director, said: &quot;Bertrams remains a very efficient wholesaler and our business relationship will continue with them as normal.&quot;</p>
<p>But there is bound to be a lot of nervousness about Bertrams' situation. Though Bertrams is not in administration (it has separate banking facilities, is profitable, and generates cash). [<b>This paragraph was edited, 28th November</b>] Though Bertrams was bought by EUK, which also owned THE at the time, it has been run as a separate business, and hence will be unaffected until the Woolworth plc business is sold off.</p>
<p><a href=" also understand that at least one major UK distributor has put both EUK and Bertrams on a hold as it seeks further clarification. </a>This will probably be temporary, with the situation described as &quot;fluid&quot;. Michael Neil, managing director of the business, is talking to customers and again it is to be hoped that supply can recommence quickly during this peak season.</p>
<p>The mood in the trade today is one of caution, and concern. Speaking about Bertrams, Alan Jessop summed it up: &quot;We are rooting for them to survive.&quot;</p>