Blackwell’s closes book on James Thin

PUBLISHING and bookselling giant Blackwell’s UK today confirmed it was buying Edinburgh-based James Thin academic bookshops in a deal which will mean the disappearance of the historic James Thin brand name.

Blackwell’s is paying more than 2 million for the 12 academic branches, including the flagship South Bridge store. Eleven of the branches are in Scotland, and all of the 102 staff will be retaining their jobs.

Blackwell’s also announced a massive 1.5m refit for the South Bridge shop, with work due to start in Spring 2003.

As well as South Bridge, the sale covers the James Thin shop at St Andrews, the University of Edinburgh stores at Buccleuch Street and the King’s Buildings, Heriot-Watt, Napier University, Queen Margaret University College, Crichton College in Dumfries, Huddersfield University, and school bookshops at Fettes College, Merchiston Castle School and Edinburgh Academy. They generated sales last year of more than 7m.

James Thin went into administration in January, and administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers has been selling its various businesses. The company’s general bookstores were sold last month to rival chain Ottakar’s and this week publishing division Mercat was bought out by its management. One remaining store at The Gyle continues under the James Thin name while negotiations to dispose of it continue.

Blackwell’s chief executive Philip Blackwell told the Evening News the refurbished South Bridge shop would be one of the premier academic bookstores in the country.

He said: "Edinburgh is one of the great cultural and educational cities of Europe and this is a very exciting opportunity for us. We have long had a desire to be in Edinburgh."

He confirmed the stores would be rebranded with the Blackwell’s name.

"As a long-established family firm, we believe that Blackwell’s is the natural successor to carry forward Thin’s bookselling legacy.

"We share a mutual commitment to bookselling excellence, based on the quality and expertise of our staff and customer service. I’d like to thank Thin’s staff for their support and hard work during this difficult time and we look forward to working with them in the future."

James Thin chairman Ainslie Thin said he welcomed the sale: "I believe Blackwell’s to be by far the best academic bookseller in the UK and the firm most capable of running our academic bookshops really well to the benefit of our academic and non-academic customers."

Blackwell’s currently has 60 bookshops in England, Scotland and Wales. It has three existing shops in Dundee and Aberdeen, and the Thin acquisition brings its total number of branches in Scotland to 14 with 72 in the UK as a whole.

With online, mail order and academic library supply businesses, Blackwell’s UK has an annual turnover of 70m and employs 1000 people in this country.

James Thin administrator Bruce Cartwright said today the Blackwell’s purchase would "build upon and enhance the existing Scottish academic business built up by James Thin".