End of an era: Co-op bookshop closes

30 March 2020

Administrators PwC announced early in 2020 that the chain had been sold to Australian online book retailer Booktopia. The Co-op Bookshop website now redirects to Booktopia.

The closing down sales at Co-op physical stores was ended abruptly last week, due to the deepening COVID-19 pandemic.

The Co-op was started by two University of Sydney students in 1958 to provide its members with access to affordable textbooks. It initially operated out of one of the founders’ garage. It went on to build the largest membership base of any co-operative in Australia and a national network of retail outlets.

In responding to market conditions, co-operatives and mutuals are no different to other businesses: they must develop and execute an effective strategy to remain sustainable and achieve the purpose of the business. When the Co-op went into administration last year, one of the reasons it gave was the “collapse” of over-the-counter textbook sales.

Students and academics have a range of needs that can be met efficiently and equitably through co-operative enterprise. National Health Co-op and Unibank are two examples of member-owned businesses that are delivering value for students.

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