British Bookshops under 'strategic review'

<p>The managing director of British Bookshops and Sussex Stationers is conducting a strategic review of the business to see how it can best cope with the economic downturn.</p><p>The mass market chain, which has 36 shops, has closed five stores so far in 2009, all in the south of England&mdash;in Worthing, Portslade, Sutton, Croydon and Hastings.</p><p>Michael Shakespeare, managing director of the retailer, said: &ldquo;We have closed five stores since the start of the year due to their leases expiring. They weren&#39;t strategic closures; we just examined whether it was worth continuing to trade there.&quot;</p><p>He refused to comment on whether there would be further store closures or any redundancies following the strategic review. Shakespeare said that the review was likely to be completed in several months. The chain, which operates in the south of England, has a reputation for driving sale offers and discounting hardbacks. However, it has faced greater value competition from internet retailers, supermarkets and W H Smith in recent years.</p><p>Shakespeare said: &ldquo;The review is because of the general situation in retail. We need to look at what we are doing and where we are going for the future of the business.&quot;</p><p>He said that one of the areas to be examined was product range. This comes a year after the chain revamped its offer, giving greater space to books at the expense of stationery and cards.</p><p>Publishers have privately expressed concern that the chain has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Shakespeare said: &ldquo;We are controlling stock a little better. We are not pushing the boat out as far as the amount of stock we are holding. But the shops are still well stocked. We are doing what we are doing to keep our business going.&quot;</p><p>Irish bookseller Eason acquired British Bookshops in April 2005. In its most recent set of accounts, British Bookshops reported that in the year to 27th January 2008, it had a pretax loss of &pound;1.78m. Sales fell 4.8% to &pound;34.7m, which it blamed on &ldquo;supermarkets, high street and online competitors strongly discounting retail prices of books&quot;.</p>