The Weltbild insolvency – Germany is living through its Borders incident
Serious shock waves have been triggered by the announcement of Weltbild filing for insolveny a week ago. The company is one of the largest retailers of books and other media in Europe. Together with Munich based Hugendubel, Weltbild controls Germany’s second largest book chain (behind Thalia), and operates the second largest online platform for books, behind Amazon, and it is a key partner, together with its rival Thalia, of the anti-Amazon ebook Alliance Tolino.
While details of the insolvency and rescue plan may not be clear before March of this year, many observers bet on the heterogenous group’s assets being striped, with the online business forming the core of the valuable pieces to be offered for sale to an investor, while many of the 300 brick and mortar outlets may be doomed.
While initial comments had a tendency to downplay the overall impact on Germany’s book and publishing market, I would disagree, and rather expect this to be the “Borders incident” for what used to be Europe’s most stable book market. It will shake the Tolino alliance, and thus other initiatives aiming at building local alternatives to the expansion of global players, while Amazon is the likely winner, grabbing much of the market share that Weltbild has grown over the past years, much of it coming from new customer groups rather than from the traditionally conservative book buyers. Also the Weltbild crash must be viewed in line with similar havoc among big book (and media) chains in France (Chapitre, Virgin) or the Netherlands (Selexyz, Polare).
Find my analysis with more detail at Publishers Weekly here.