Book chain closes doors

Book chain closes doors

2008-10-28 08:08

Bloemfontein - Expanding too fast and too much, and doing so in difficult economic circumstances. This was, says Johan Marais, the owner of the Fascination Books group, the main reason for the sudden liquidation of the country's third-largest book retailer. The company apparently applied for liquidation last Wednesday, a step that caught both book lovers and staff at the 33 branches unawares.

"We knew nothing about this beforehand. On Wednesday afternoon the liquidators walked in and we had to hand over the keys and leave the shop immediately," said Magda de Vries, who has been manager of Fascination Books in Bloemfontein's Mimosa Mall since 2000.

The liquidation affects more than 300 employees countrywide and there is no indication yet that they will get their October salary.

"Unfortunately the issue is in the hands of the liquidators and I am out of the picture. Employees who are owed salaries become registered as preferential creditors and will be at the front of the queue when claims are handled," said Marais.

But, he added, there are indications that there are buyers interested in the retail group, or in some of the more viable shops in the group.

Among these "stronger" shops, Bloemfontein is the best performer. The branches in Polokwane and Kolonnade Centre in Pretoria also stand out, according to group chief executive Alistair Steyn.

"The problem, however, is that weaker shops drag the whole group down, dry up cash flow and eventually make it impossible to replenish basic stock in those shops doing well," Steyn explained.

Marais, author of a bestseller on South Africa snakes, started Fascination Books 13 years ago and in time built it into a group that had carved a niche into the low-cost book market.

- Sake24