Irish book chain Hughes and Hughes goes into receivership
26.02.10 | Philip Jones and Graeme Neill

Irish bookseller Hughes and Hughes has gone into receivership blaming collapsing consumer demand, a drop in passenger numbers visiting its airport stores, and internet competition. It said it had been unable to “renegotiate occupation costs” and described receivership as “the only appropriate action left to the company”.

Ulster Bank Ireland Limited appointed David Carson of Deloitte as receiver to the company today (26th February). According to reports high street shops have been closed, with the likely loss of 225 jobs, though airports shops remain open for the time being.

Rumours of the imminent demise of the chain, which was founded in 1983, began to circulate earlier in the week, and a statement had been expected earlier in the day. H&H had expanded rapidly over the past ten years, opening more than 10 branches. At one point it had 24 stores across Ireland and the UK. According to reports in the Irish media, the latest accounts for Hughes & Hughes show that the bookseller generated profits in excess of €500,000 on sales of more than €37m to the 53 weeks ended March 2008, up more than €6m year-on-year.

The statement, from the directors and management of Hughes and Hughes, said that “in common with all retailers”, the chain had been “operating in an environment of collapsing consumer demand due to the weakness of the economy and the exchange rate differential with sterling”. But it added: “Bookshops also have the added factor of the revolutionary wave of internet competition to deal with. Further, by virtue of the majority proportion of Hughes & Hughes business being generated through our airport concessions the business has been particularly badly hit by the collapse in passenger numbers passing through Dublin & Cork airports.”

H&H added: “The difficulty of being unable to sufficiently renegotiate occupation costs either on the high street or in the airports is also common to many Irish businesses at present, particularly in the retail sector. Indeed the unwillingness to reduce rents has been in stark contrast to the approach of our employees who were willing to make the adjustments necessary to support the business.”

The retailer’s move into receivership comes at a desperate time for the Irish economy. According to figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, retail sales fell 14.1% in 2009 by volume and 18.0% by value.

Derek Hughes (pictured), chief executive, could not be reached for further comment. But the statement issued by the bookseller concluded: “The directors and management wish to express our gratitude and appreciation to the company’s 225 employees who themselves supported the business in these straightened times through reductions in pay and other measures, but most of all through the integrity of their endeavours in serving our many customers.”

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