Eason unveils turnaround plans

Eason unveils turnaround plans

Irish union Siptu has said it would “completely oppose” any compulsory redundancies enforced by bookselling chain Eason, as m.d Conor Whelan outlines turnaround plans for the retailer.

Last week Eason announced it would invest €20m (£17.6m) over three years in the company, derived from cost savings, cash reserves and asset disposals. It will spend the money on overhauling outdated IT systems and redesigning some of its 60 shops. At the same time, the firm will embark on a restructure aiming to make €8m cost savings over the course of three years.

Whelan said the cost reduction programme would most likely include “both voluntary and compulsory redundancies”. Siptu representative Graham Macken said the union would stand against any enforced job cuts. “Eason has said it will be writing to us formally, to commence discussions to outline the proposals and work with us going forward, but that has not happened as of yet,” he said.

“I will be writing to the company to ask for an update. It is hard to imagine how the cost savings would be met without any redundancies at all, but I have no idea what numbers we are looking at yet. We would be completely opposed to any compulsory redundancies.”

Over 60 Siptu members who hold management grades at Eason have recently passed two votes of no confidence in Whelan, expressing concerns about the direction the company was taking after a small number of staff had been made redundant. Whelan said of the votes: “We have 1,000 employees and have taken steps to inform them of our plans to address any uncertainty.”

The company is undertaking a business-wide assessment of its stores to decide those which could benefit from refurbishment, but Whelan said no programme of store closure was planned.

Eason plans to make stores a “destination department” for children and young adults. It will sell products to complement teen books in order to attract young people, such as pencil cases and toys.

The company also hopes to increase its total digital revenue, from the present figure— “very low single digits”—to 8%–10%. To aid this, interactive e-zones will be created in some locations, where customers can use in-store e-readers to test out e-books.

On Monday (11th April), Eason plans to launch a new brand marketing strategy, and in November this year, the company’s refreshed website will be unveiled. By October, a loyalty card scheme will be initiated. Whelan said: “Eason is more than a book store, and our scale and diverse product offering allows us to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.”

Eason revealed losses of €10m for the year ending 31st January 2010, on a turnover of €193m, down from €21m the previous year.