Borders' Australasian retail businesses are to go online, with fully transactional sites due to be launched within the next six months.

Previously known as A & R Whitcoulls, parent company REDgroup Retail acquired Borders' Australian, Singapore and New Zealand stores last June in a $110 million Australian ($83.8 million) deal. As well as Borders, the NZ-listed company also owns the Australian book chain Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls, a leading New Zealand books, stationery and DVD retailer.

Group managing director Dave Fenlon tells that the company has been pleased with the performance of the Borders stores in Australia and New Zealand to date and is now looking to build on that success in the online arena.

"All things being equal, the online businesses will be launched before September," he says. "Basically, anything you can get in a Borders store will be available online."

According to Fenlon, more than one million customers in Australia and New Zealand had previously registered an interest in Borders' "Shortlist" email newsletter and a survey of subscribers had indicated a "huge desire" for a fully transactional site.

The focus will be on mail order sales, but other online options such as downloads have not been ruled out. "We don't currently have any plans to offer online music [downloads] but we never say never in this business," Fenlon says. "It's something we may consider in the future if we think it is appropriate at the time."

Although REDgroup does not provide any detailed breakdown of its individual product categories, music and DVD accounts for around 18% of Borders' business in the region and Fenlon says both categories had been performing according to expectations so far.

For the half year ending Feb. 28, REDgroup posted earnings of $21.1
million Australian ($16 million), up 101% on the corresponding period;
however, that figure excludes a one-off integration charge of $3.9
million Australian ($2.9 million) relating to the acquisition of

The company now operates more than 30 stores in Asia Pacific region, the majority of which are in Australia. In the current financial year, three new stores have been added to the group, all of which are in Australia.

REDgroup is also trialing new store design concepts for its Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls brands. In Australia, the company is experimenting with a DVD section within Angus & Robertson, but Fenlon says the focus will remain on books.

Whitcoulls is already a market leader in the New Zealand DVD market, but the company has now begun trialing a small CD range in a new outlet, which has just opened in Christchurch. "I definitely see music as an opportunity in locations where we can offer a good range for the customer," Fenlon says. "Because of the demise of other retailers, there are many locations where there isn't a great music offer and we will take those opportunities."