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Adams Booksellers to close down 4 branches including in Durban CBD

Adams Booksellers will be closing its four branches by the end of May. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Adams Booksellers will be closing its four branches by the end of May. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 11, 2022


DURBAN - WELL-KNOWN bookstore Adams Booksellers will be closing its four branches by the end of this month.

The 157-year-old business has two main branches in Durban and Pietermaritzburg and two smaller branches based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus and in Johannesburg.

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It said that after years of trading history in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the shareholders of Adams Booksellers had decided to offer the business for sale as a going concern.

“For the first time in its history, there is no member of the Adams family to take over from Peter Adams, who is retiring from active involvement in the business. As a result, the Adams family has decided to sell the business as a whole or parts of it. The skilled staff, the infrastructure and the market penetration will give the buyer a strong position entering these markets.”

According to the company’s history, Adams and Co was established in 1865 when Durban was a small town.

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A photograph of the Adams Bookstore at 341 West Street taken from Independent Media Archives. The bookstore was established in 1865 and originally operated as a reading room at the then Natal Mercury offices in West Street. It later moved to premises at 341 West Street, now Pixley ka Seme Street.

Two brothers, Francis and Stanhope Adams, arrived from London, and leased the reading room at the then Natal Mercury offices in West Street and began supplying the stationery and book needs of the small community.

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The supplies came from the brothers’ father, Francis, who had a stationery business in London.

With time the local business grew, and in the late 1800s, the company opened a shop in Pietermaritzburg.

After a busy period until the end of World War I, the business shared in the financial hardships of the 1920s and the depression, reviving after the Second World War.

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But in the 1980s, when the shopping centres around the city drew away some retail interest, the business, under the leadership of managing director Peter Adams, turned its attention to educational and university books.

The company enjoyed a sustained period of growth, with sales and profits reaching a peak in 2015.

However, the company said the size and value of the book market has declined over the past few years, especially in South Africa, due to the poor economic climate, which had a major impact on public spending on school books and libraries.

“In the past, university book sales came from the large Unisa student market, which was funded by NSFAS bursaries. The government stopped the bursary scheme in 2019, and instead, students were given cash rather than book allowances. This resulted in a dramatic downturn in the sales of university books.

“The situation was worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the closing of university campuses and schools for the past two years.”

This decline over the past three years led to the closure of five shops and a reduction of staff to 44 employees in 2022.

In a sale announcement, the company said the business offered a turnaround opportunity for someone who had the drive and energy to transform and modernise the family business and to take advantage of the existing platform of reputation, reliability, and customer service that Adams had built up.

The company said that it was a stressful and sad time for staff. Its customers said they were saddened by the news of the closures.

“I feel that Adams is a place that has been vital to educating the youth. This is sad because with the closure of Adams, there will be less of an opportunity for people to learn and educate themselves. Our future generation needs books to grow,” said Thabiso Shezi.

Sidney Pillay said that he has been buying books for more than 30 years at the store.

“I always come here to look for books when I come to the Durban CBD.

“I have bought set books and study guides for my sons for years while they were in school.

“They were practically educated at this place.

“It saddens me that this might not be a part of Durban any more.”


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