Fopp: the fallout

Fopp: the fallout

<p>The possibility of Fopp becoming the latest casualty of the cut-throat retail sector seemed remote at the start of the year. The music, DVD and books retailer had nurtured a young, culty demographic, stocking quirky as well as higher-profile titles. &quot;Fopp was a great retailer of cool fiction,&quot; says David Ward, sales director at Bloomsbury. &quot;And the chain would also sell a lot of film books and music biographies.&quot;</p><p>While it did not have a massive share of the UK book market, publishers were pleased by Fopp&#39;s ability to target titles at its eclectic but loyal consumer base. And the retailer was expanding quickly. It had only 16 stores at the end of 2003; by the time it entered administration, it had 81.</p><p>It was perhaps a victim of its own success. In February, it purchased 68 stores from discount rival chain Music Zone. One well-placed source suggests that expansion was a bad move on such a ferociously competitive high street. &quot;As companies, they were at opposite ends of the scale, appealing to different customers,&quot; she says. &quot;Fopp was a more back catalogue-focused retailer with a different market. It grew too quickly.&quot;</p><p>The source adds that Fopp didn&#39;t anticipate the effect that the Music Zone purchase would have on its credit rating from suppliers. &quot;Because of Music Zone&#39;s previous woes, it was treated as a start-up company and had a much worse credit rating. The risk attributed to it was much higher and it dragged Fopp down.&quot;<br /><br /><strong>Publishers mourn</strong></p><p>Where this leaves the publishing industry, with stock still lying in abandoned stores and some bills left unpaid, remains to be seen. The speed of Fopp&#39;s demise appears to have taken publishers by surprise; they agree unanimously that it is a serious loss. &quot;It&#39;s a real shame,&quot; says one major publisher. &quot;They did really well on backlist and cult titles and they were a growing force as a retailer. Last Christmas was amazing and our sales with them in the first quarter were great.&quot;</p><p>Bloomsbury&#39;s Ward suggests that novels such as William Goldman&#39;s The Princess Bride were typical Fopp&nbsp; strong sellers. &quot;They managed to sell&mdash;very strongly&mdash;books on the backlist that other chains would put to the back of their stores.&quot;</p><p>Emma Barnes, m.d. of Snowbooks agrees, saying that Steve Aylett&#39;s pseudo-biography Lint performed well in Fopp. &quot;People go into their stores looking for books that are edgier and more underground.&quot;</p><p>Stephen Edney, group sales and marketing director at Octopus, says that Fopp was a channel earmarked for growth. &quot;They were a slightly different outlet and consumer base which was very attractive to us,&quot; he said. &quot;I hope something can come out of the ashes.&quot;</p><p>Fopp&#39;s demise means that there are now two entertainment retailers for sale. Borders has been available since its parent company effectively put the UK and Ireland business on the market in April. But analysts believe the Fopp saga will not damage the chances of Borders being snapped up. &quot;Borders&#39; main business is books, so I don&#39;t think you could equate the two businesses at all,&quot; says City analyst Richard Ratner of Seymour Pierce.</p>