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Woolworths Appeals to the Smaller Stores

The Guardian reports that Trevor Bish-Jones, the Woolworths chief executive, has accused the publishing industry of waging a campaign to block its planned acquisition of the book wholesaler Bertram, one of the largest suppliers to independent bookshops in Britain, by pressing the Competition Commission to its current plans to investigate the proposed merger. He said publishers had “whipped independent bookshops into a frenzy” and encouraged them to complain against the proposed £29m deal. In doing so, the retailers had unwittingly acted against their own interests.

“I was somewhat surprised by the scale of the opposition to the deal. The logic is flawed. Having a couple of strong wholesalers is of benefit to independent booksellers. It is then that you have a reasonable chance of a sensible dialogue with the publishers and getting access to the prices available to the supermarkets. At the moment there is dual pricing – the terms available to the supermarkets are preferential to those available to the independent booksellers,” he said. Referring the deal to the commission, Office of Fair Trading director Vincent Smith said there had been a “large body of retailer concern”. Nic Bottomley, who runs Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, a bookshop in Bath, said he was “keeping a watchful eye” on the situation. “More competition is obviously better,” he said.

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