Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What became of the Whitcoulls man?

For a few years a well-dressed but appropriately gormless looking twit fronted Whitcoulls' TV commercials (the above picture is a good likeness). But he has not been seen for a while. Has he been transferred to Australia as the book buyer for all of Whitcoulls, Angus & Robertson and Borders stores in both countries?

It will probably not make any difference to Whitcoulls' awfulness, however. Those who try Whitcoulls' NZ website to search for what book titles they have in stock will find a pathetic choice on anything worthwhile. For example, a search for "New Zealand railways" will produce only 3 titles which any of its NZ stores might have (probably won't have) in stock, and at selling prices about 15% above the RRPs set by the publishers of them. An incentive to bother with Whitcoulls at all, or an incentive to try elsewhere? Not too hard that one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Should on-line bookshops be a threat to NZ 'bricks and mortar' type?

A comment encountered frequently from conventional bookshops in NZ now is that overseas cyber bookshops, Amazon in particular, compete for business with them in respect of overseas published books. This notwithstanding the fact that most of these same shops have their own direct-sell websites.
This raises the question - what percentage of the range of books in NZ bookshops is NZ published and what percentage is imported? There is no accurate means of assessing this other than by inspecting a few shops and making an estimate. We have done this in a few towns and cities now, and our estimate is that only about 4-5% of the typical range on offer is from NZ publishers. With the likes of Whitcoulls and Paper Plus that is being generous.
About 3,000 new books a year are published by commercial NZ publishers according to the Legal Deposit Office, so it would not be difficult for these shops to fill a much larger percentage of shelf space with local product. If they are so concerned about the likes of Amazon selling books from US and UK publishers direct by mail to local customers, why don't they?
Foreign cyber bookshops have the advantage of not having to charge Value Added Tax - i.e. GST - on their export orders, but the complaint about that should be leveled at the NZ Government for its high rate of tax on books. In the UK, for example, there is no VAT on books, while most of the other European counties have rates between 4 to 7%. The NZ book industry publishers suffer a heavy burden in comparison.

Friday, June 5, 2009

bnz - where you put trash

Over the past month the Bank of New Zealand has renamed itself "bnz" and has removed the traditional Southern Cross stars from its logo, in fact there is now no logo, just bnz in lower case Gill Sans Bold Italic on its new murky blue signage.
One detects cynicism on the part of its PR people but very appropriate as since 1992 the once government owned bank has been a totally Australian owned bank, essentially indistinguishable in its policies and attitudes from the other big Australian banks, and like them fleeces massive profits from those unfortunate enough to use it. Of course, back in the mid to late 1980s it made huge losses which enabled the National Australia Bank to come bargain hunting, thanks to then chairman Michael Fay who used the Bank of New Zealand to finance his shady merchant trader Fay Richwhite ("It's my f***ing bank and I'll do what it want with it" was one of Mr Fay's better known quotes.) Since 2003 when their shady dealing in Tranz Rail came to light they have been residents of Switzerland.

All of this wouldn't be so bad if New Zealand taxpayers hadn't been used to prop up the bank in 1990 when thanks to Fay Richwhite it nearly collapsed. Despite this bail-out, those who bought shares in bnz in its 1987 IPO still lost about half their investment.

Get the garbage man to take the bnz / binz away.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Extension complete

When we bought our new two-story building at the beginning of 2006 we thought it would last us for 10 years. Well, we have already had to build an extension for our retail division which is now complete (thank goodness - no more sawing and hammering, dust, polyurethane smells etc!).
This now holds more books than you'll find in any Paper Plus store. Although NZ sales have fallen in the last year or so, foreign sales are significantly up - the "information super-highway" of the 1990s is finally starting to be one.