The Hugendubel Group, Germany's biggest operator of bookstores, has announced massive job cuts at its main subsidiaries:
- The large-scale Hugendubel stores (the German equivalent of Borders) will slash head-count by 400 staff, or nearly 1/3 of the total.
- The smallish Weltbild outlets (which carry a limited number of bestsellers) is cutting 322 staff, or 20 % of the workforce.
- Regional chain Buch Habel is firing 106 staff, 1/3 of the total.
That adds up to a total headcount reduction of 830.
Reasons for the massive cull aren't clear. Hugendubel says it is losing sales to the internet (i.e. Amazon), and argues that the overall book market has been weak for many years.
The unions suspect the chain has been expanding too fast, but I doubt that this is the main cause (the chain hasn't opened any new shops in Munich for quite a while, but is also slashing headcount in its Munich stores).
I recently spoke to the owner of a small-scale publishing house specialising in fiction. He said that small publishers are under immense pressure. Large bookstores are focusing more and more on a few bestsellers, and small publishers find it hard to get onto the shelves at all. Also, he felt that book sales have weakened a lot this year. As a consequence, he predicted a shakeup with lots of small companies going out of business during the next 2 years.
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