Two Wholesaler Closings: Koen and Alamo Square
Koen Book Distributors, Moorestown N.J., one of the last major regional wholesalers in the country, and Alamo Square Distributors, the Sacramento, Calif., wholesaler specializing in gay and lesbian titles, are folding.
Koen, which has operated under Chapter 11 for the past month, closed its doors on Thursday. The turning point came when several of the top creditors decided not to ship to Koen even on a COD basis. All but about 20 employees were let go, leaving a skeleton crew to handle liquidation. Apparently this will consist of sales to existing customers at heavy discounts.
One source close to Koen said that since filing for bankruptcy, Koen sold the books that were supplied "as fast as they came in," but the quantities were not high enough to reassure creditors. The source thanked "all of our loyal customers. They stuck with us and kept our spirits high through the really crazy past few weeks. Independent booksellers are still the backbone of this business. Of course, the chain business was keeping us going as well."
One observer thought that Koen might have survived had it tried to remain a regional wholesaler serving indies, B&N and Amazon.
Wanda Jewell, executive director of the Southeast Booksellers Association, called it "sad to see Koen go away. They have always been customer driven and a great friend to the regional associations. The outlook for regional wholesalers is not good and the passing of Koen will be a great loss to independent booksellers in the South."
Rusty Drugan, executive director of the New England Booksellers Association, commented that "New England booksellers are deeply saddened by the news of Koen's demise. Many have told me that the news is 'devastating' to them. It also casts a pall over the upcoming fall retail season. There is anxiety about shipments and supply without Koen in the wholesale-ordering queue.
"Koen was always a strong supporter of NEBA and, more important, Koen was passionately committed to independent bookstores in New England. It is more than just a financial loss to NEBA and the loss to bookstores of a nimble, customer-centered and service-oriented wholesaler."
Drugan noted, too, that Koen employees "are our friends. Booksellers were on a first-name basis and in frequent contact, professionally and personally, with Koen staffers in all departments. We fervently hope that they will be successful in finding new positions in the industry that will allow them to continue to contribute their energy and intelligence and passion to the book business."
Koen's financial woes came to light in late June, when it was unable to fulfill orders for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Many independent booksellers on the East Coast rallied behind Koen, putting it first on their cascade lists and paying promptly, but unfortunately the effort was not enough to save the company.
Alamo Square Distributors, the Sacramento, Calif., wholesaler of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and sexual alternative books, has shut down.
The company said that the closing came "after several attempts to restructure the business model to adapt to the changing wholesale distribution market. . . . This has been a difficult and painful decision to make."
Alamo Square Distributors is being evicted from its warehouse, which it opened just two years ago. The company wants to return all stock but cannot afford to pay for shipping and will have to discard stock not claimed before August 25. For more information, contact the company at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or fax 916-455-8851.
Alamo Square Distributors was founded in 1993 by Bert Herrman, the author and head of Alamo Square Press. He had sold the company but continued to help its buying.