Borders chief demands end to 'archaic' pricing

Borders UK managing director Philip Downer has called for the biggest seismic change in the book sector since the end of the Net Book Agreement in 1995.

Speaking at a Borders' conference on Monday, Downer slammed the book industry and vented his frustration at 'archaic' pricing practices.

He called for publishers to remove prices from book covers and leave pricing decisions to retailers. His comments are likely to be opposed by bookselling rivals.

Downer insisted: 'It is absurd and archaic that we cannot set our own pricing structure.' He said that the prices of nearly all retail products, 'from houses to cans of baked beans', are decided by the seller. 'Can we get the prices off books, please?' he demanded.

He pointed to the music sector, where retailers decide the selling price of products.

Industry sources said that Borders would derive a great advantage from flexible pricing in slow-moving lines - which could be priced up - because of the significant back catalogue it holds compared with its rivals.

Borders' central distribution warehouse would also enable it to price-sticker books itself cost-effectively, probably to a greater extent than rivals Ottakar's and Waterstone's.

Downer also called for more cohesive launch strategies for books, particularly bestsellers. 'It is tragic when we see major titles dribbling out,' he said.

He said that Borders UK sales this year will approach£190 million, and will break the£200 million mark next year.

Books account for about 65 per cent of Borders' sales in its 61 UK stores. The retailer has identified approximately 200 more locations for Borders stores across the UK.