01 May 1998

HIGH STREET chain W H Smith, the UK’s largest bookseller, has bought its way into the burgeoning Internet book market. The retailer is to pay £9.5m for Oxford-based bookshop.co.uk, an Ofex-quoted online bookseller trading as The Internet Bookshop. The company was founded five years ago by Darryl Mattocks, 35, who quit as managing director earlier this year amid a boardroom row about the company’s future. He stands to receive around £3m from the sale. Despite posting a pre-tax loss of £406,000 on sales of over £2m last year, bookshop.co.uk presents WHS with a ready-made operational sales presence on the Internet, complete with a range of titles including 400,000 from the US. To the chagrin of retail bookshops, the US titles are already selling on the Net at up to 45% below high street prices. WHS will compete in an increasingly cut-throat UK online books market, recently invaded by Amazon, the US online books giant which claims to be the world’s largest.