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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bennetts back in Kiwi hands

Back in 1899, a bookstore called Bennetts, owned by the local Bennett family, was established in provincial Palmerston North, a couple of hours' drive north of Wellington.  It was the shop where just about all the books of my childhood came from -- getting a book token for Christmas or a birthday meant a delicious hour sorting through shelves crammed with tempting literature ... Milly Molly Mandy, Little Women, and all that wicked stuff by Enid Blyton.

Later, it was where I bought my university textbooks.  And I had that much-missed, long-departed short story magazine, Argosy, on permanent order.  It took me the whole month to save up the half-crown that it cost, but it was worth it.

Then, in 1988 (a strangely coincidental shifting around of the figures of the date of its birth) the store was taken over by the first of a series of robber barons.  By February 2011, when REDgroup-owned Whitcoulls was placed in receivership, Bennetts was part of the package.

Now it is back in local ownership.  Geoff Spong, the New Zealander who established Vol 1, a university textbook chain, has bought Bennetts for an undisclosed sum.

He intends to make it campus focused, but will keep up the flagship Bennetts Government Bookshop on the northernmost corner of Lambton Quay.

I'm so pleased about that.  The staff there are the oldfashioned kind who obviously love books, and will go to immense trouble to find you the book you want, or advise you if you're not sure.


Nicola Frean said...

Thank you Joan - Bennetts was one of the Good Things about growing up in Palmerston North - I even worked there for a while. This is really good news.

Joan Druett said...

I didn't know you were another refugee from Palmerston North! Yes, Bennetts was definitely one of the biggests pluses.

Anonymous said...

It is good to see Bennetts change hands again. I do however take issue with the comments "robber barons" With out Graeme Hart buying the Government book shops many years ago and then Bennetts the chain would have gone west long ago. It was a mess..I should know I managed them for a few years! Agree Great staff, but poor concepts and so many books brought by book buyers who were not in touch. Anyway times move on

Anonymous said...

The shop WAS good indeed. If you take a look these days, I am sorry that I have to say, it's sad to see this shop is going to fade soon. 1.Poor staff:I don't know who is managing this shop, but obviously is someone who knows nothing about book but only cards. 2. This shop used to have excellent taste of books, but if you take a look its shelves these days, nothing but poor titles, that shows no taste at all. 3.Staff there used to be friendly and knowledgeable. I was there last Mon,Wed and Fri, and weeks before. I am sorry, except giggling and apologize for not enough stock, I don't know what else their staff know. 2 points for the shop in Lambton Quay. (1 point for its location,1 point for those old school friendly experienced book lovers used to work there.)

Joan Druett said...

Oh dear! That certainly doesn't look good for Bennetts. No wonder Unity is looking so busy these days. Customer service and knowledgeable staff are the big pluses that these dedicated bookstores have over the chains.