No plans for UK store closures or management shake-up, says Roche
US bookseller Borders has put its 72-store UK business up for sale nine years after entering the market with the purchase of the Books etc chain.

As it announced its annual results this morning, Borders said that it wanted to focus on its US business as the 'key to future growth' and that it would be seeking a buyer for its Borders and Books etc businesses in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Borders chief executive and president George Jones said: 'For us to be successful in reaching the goals we have for the US domestic superstore business, we must significantly reduce investment in the international segment and explore strategic alternatives.'

Borders UK chief executive David Roche said: 'In both our businesses, we look forward to securing alternative investment and we believe the timing is right in terms of gaining autonomy. This change will enable us to develop the business in a way that is more tailored to the UK and Irish markets. Until such time as a buyer is found, it is very much business as usual. There can be no assurance that this process will lead to a transaction and no timetable is set.'

Borders said that it would retain ownership of its Paperchase business.

Roche told Retail Week: 'International is lower in the pecking order than the domestic business. The lion share of the profits come from the States. But our businesses here are healthy and have a bright future.'

He added that a number of improvements are needed in the UK business, including improvements to operational infrastructure systems, the web site and delivering customer service.

Roche said third parties are 'queuing up to work with the Borders brand' and devolvement from the US would free up Borders UK to partner with, for example, agencies on digital media and internet projects.

Roche added that there are no plans for store closures or a management shake-up in the UK. He said the UK arm had achieved a solid, but not spectacular, performance last year and had outperformed other specialists in like-for-like sales.

International sales for the year to February 3 were up 12 per cent to US$650 million (£330 million). The UK and Ireland represents about 70 per cent of the international business. Comparable store sales rose 0.4 per cent. At the domestic US division, sales were US$2.75 billion (£1.40 billion) and comparable store sales rose 2.2 per cent.

Jones said: 'Our 2006 results were disappointing, as our company and the industry as a whole continued to face a challenging environment.'