PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed as voluntary administrators of the University Co-Operative Bookshop Limited and its subsidiary Co Info Pty Ltd.
The announcement follows Australian Geographic's termination of its licence agreement with University Co-Operative Bookshop for the use of the Australian Geographic brand for retail and online stores.
The Co-Operative runs the 34 Co-op Bookshop stores on university campuses across Australia, as well as the retail network of the Curious Planet scientific stores (formerly known as Australian Geographic), which has a total of 63 stores nationwide as well as an online presence.
Alongside the textbooks for unversity students, the Co-op stores stock a range of party/adult games, puzzles, regular games, novelty items, lifestyle products, stationery and science products.
According to reports by The Sydney Morning Herald the business owes toy suppliers and publishers more than $15 million, with toy wholesaler Independence Studios reportedly owed six figures.
PwC administrator Phil Carter said that the business will run as usual while the administrators explore options for the business.
"The Co-op Bookshop has been a successful and integral part of university life for generations of Australians, and Curious Planet is a well-loved educational and scientific store.
"We intend to keep all Co-op Bookshop and Curious Planet stores operating on a business as usual basis while we seek interested parties for the sale of the business on a going concern basis.
"We are currently undertaking an urgent review of the business in order to stabilise its relationships with key stakeholders and ensure that the store network enjoys a successful Christmas trading period," he said.
Co-op chairman Joe Merhi said that the declining sales of textbooks contributed to the decision to call in administrators.
"The combination of weak retail trading figures coming up to Christmas and the collapse of ‘over the counter text book’ sales by over 40 per cent from last year, has left the Board with no alternative but to appoint a voluntary administrator to help this proud organisation through this period of time, leading up to Christmas.
"The Co-op, founded in 1958 has a proud history of serving its members which now number close to two million Australians, but the massive decline in the purchase of textbooks has meant that the Board need to diligently and proactively address the potential risks of trading in the Christmas period," he said.
A Co-op director Emeritus Professor Di Yerbury AO said that the decision was one that wasn't taken lightly.
"The Co-op is an organisation I am proud to be associated with, given its important role on university campuses and service to the community over the last 61 years.
"It was a difficult but necessary decision that the Board has made to ask for external assistance from PwC given the continual decline in textbook sales and soft retail market," she said.