One of the UK’s biggest independent online booksellers has been forced into administration just days before Christmas amid talks aimed at securing its long-term future.
Sky News has learnt that The Book People, which has been owned by the private equity investor Endless since an earlier rescue deal in 2014, has called in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to handle an insolvency process.
Sources said that the accountancy firm had been overseeing an auction of The Book People in recent weeks as Endless tried to secure a buyer.
They added that a number of “credible” parties had expressed an interest in a deal.
Based in Surrey, The Book People sells popular titles at discounted prices, but has been hurt by the relentless growth of digital behemoths such as Amazon.
The company employs close to 400 people at this time of the year, although its workforce outside of the peak trading season is significantly smaller.
“This is all about the Amazon effect,” said one person close to the process.
The Book People was founded in 1988 by two book enthusiasts, Ted Smart and Seni Glaister, who came up with the idea of delivering heavily discounted titles to people’s workplaces.
In a statement issued to Sky News, James Woolley, a partner at Endless, said the firm was “naturally disappointed” that its rescue efforts had led to this point.
“Over more than five years, we secured more than 300 jobs and appointed strong new management to modernise the business.
“Nonetheless, the well-documented challenges in the retail environment compounded by the strength of global online booksellers, has severely impacted operating cashflows over recent years.”
Mr Woolley said that Endless had committed significant capital to The Book People during its five years as the company’s owner and that it was continuing to trade in administration.
“There are no plans for any redundancies to be made whilst a buyer for the business is found but we thank all of the employees of TBP for their continued hard work and support,” he added.