EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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June 3, 2014

Textbook dollars and cents

Loss of Phillips Academy contract a blow for Andover Bookstore

ANDOVER — For 200 years, a new term has always brought scores of Phillips Academy students to Andover Bookstore on Main Street to buy their textbooks.

The line of students at the cash registers was long, as was the receipts for the independent bookseller in downtown Andover, which realized about half of its overall business each year from textbook sales, its owners say.

But that tradition is about to come to an end as Phillips Academy has contracted with an online vendor for its textbooks.

The decision “deals a devastating financial blow to the bookstore,” co-owner John Hugo wrote this month in an email to customers that’s also posted on the store’s website.

Andover Bookstore will continue to sell Phillips Academy gear and novelties, including sweatshirts, day planners and coffee mugs — but will no longer be the bookstore for the private secondary school that sits just up the road, within walking distance of the downtown.

But Hugo, a 1998 alumnus of Phillips Academy whose father, Bob Hugo, bought Andover Bookstore in 1990, said he is unsure the business can survive the elimination of textbook sales.

“This (textbook selling) was a 205-year-old tradition ... and we were just so surprised by this,” he said.

Hugo is planning to meet with his landlord this week to seek a rent reduction for his spot in Andover Village, which currently has a number of vacancies.

Lincoln Essex OAV, a partnership that includes state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and area residents John Fenton and Scott Jameson, among others, owns the property.

“Without a rent change, we do not stay open. No business can lose half its sales and stay alive without massive change to rent and payroll,” Hugo said in an email yesterday.

Hugo said last week that the decision by Phillips follows a concerning trend for independent booksellers that has seen readers venturing away from brick-and-mortar shops and moving online for their book-buying, threatening the future of independent booksellers like himself. The Hugos also own The Book Rack in Newburyport and The Spirit of ‘76 Bookstore in Marblehead.

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