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Campus Co-op cuts back

The Darlington bookstore is battling for financial survival

Photo of Coop from cadigal Supplied: A view of the remaining Co-op premises on the Darlington campus

Embattled bookstore Co-op is facing mass store closures across New South Wales and the University of Sydney (USyd) outlet on the Darlington campus looks next in line.

Sydney University Sport and Fitness (SUSF), which oversees the Co-op as a tenant in the Codrington building, recently retained commercial realtors Kellys to lease part of the Co-op store’s premises after Co-op’s request for downsizing its physical campus presence was approved in late-2018.

A SUSF spokesperson told Honi “most of the space the shop formerly occupied has since been converted into an additional gymnasium area.”

The 100 square metre premises in the Sport and Aquatic Centre is being advertised for $90,000 per annum with marketing materials boasting of proximity to a “captive young demographic.”

The lease for Co-op’s remaining premises is valued at $124,000 in 2019.

Co-op’s market has undergone a massive transformation in recent years. Amazon launched in Australia in 2017 and e-textbook vendors like Jekkle and StudentVIP rapidly grew in popularity, entering student markets at orientation weeks and student festivals. The digital wave had come for Co-op and its physical presence on campuses began to wane.

That steady decline continued unabated due to unreliable and expensive stock. Around a dozen stores, including USyd’s neighbouring Broadway outlet have shut since 2015 and revenue declined by 17% between 2017 and 2018, according to the co-operative’s latest financial report.

The Co-op outlet at Australian National University was replaced in late-2018 with rival chain Harry Hartog, according to reporting by the ANU Observer. Over at neighbouring UNSW, the UNSW Bookshop is run by the university press, the last of its kind in Australia.

At the same time, the Co-Op has been re-positioning into a different retail market after acquiring Australian Geographic back in 2017.

Online reviews of the campus outlet over the last year have been largely negative with customers pointing to the store’s exorbitant prices, limited stock, poor customer service, and irregular opening hours.

In 2017, the Co-op rebuffed student attempts to make the organisation more transparent and accountable at its annual general meeting.