Bookstore Gunung Agung to close up shop this year after 70 years

The company was unable to overcome the operating losses it had endured since 2013, which was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aditya Hadi

Aditya Hadi

The Jakarta Post


Stock illustration of a person taking a book from a bookshelf (Unsplash/Christin Hume)(Unsplash/Christin Hume)

May 24, 2023

JAKARTA – At the age of seven decades, PT GA Tiga Belas, the company behind local bookstore chain Gunung Agung, plans to shut down its last five outlets this year after gradually closing its stores across the country since 2020.

The company said it was unable to overcome the mounting operating losses it had endured since 2013, and which was exacerbated by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GA Tiga Belas said it had made efforts to cut operating costs during that period, while admitting that these efforts had not been enough.

Several stores in Surabaya, Semarang, Gresik, Magelang, Bogor, Bekasi and Jakarta were affected in 2020 as it started to scale down operations to stay afloat.

“[Our operating cost] has not been comparable with our sales performance every year. And the situation became more difficult with the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020,” GA Tiga Belas management said in a statement on Saturday.

Gunung Agung is one of the oldest bookstores in the country. It was founded in 1953 by Chinese-born entrepreneur Tjio Wie Tay, also known as Haji Masagung, and organized its first book fair the following year.

Competitor Gramedia was established almost two decades after Gunung Agung first opened its doors.

Indonesia’s first president Sukarno appointed Gunung Agung as the main publisher and distributor of his books in 1960. The company then expanded its business in 1986 by establishing the Walisongo bookstore, specializing in titles on Islam.

In 1992, Gunung Agung went public and was listed under the ticker code TKGA on the Jakarta Stock Exchange, a precursor to the Indonesia Stock Exchange, raising Rp 5 billion (US$335,045) in the process.

But the company was delisted in 2017 after it was suspended in 2015 for failing to meet the bourse’s requirements, including publishing its financial report.

Read also: Online bookstores open physical branches amid pandemic sales boom

Employee complaints

Mirah Sumirat, president of the Association of Indonesian Trade Unions (ASPEK), said on Friday that she had received several complaints and requests for legal advocacy from the workers union at GA Tiga Belas over alleged “unilateral layoffs”.

She added that the GA Tiga Belas workers union was a member of ASPEK.

According to Mirah, the company had unilaterally laid off 220 employees between 2020 and 2022. Following Saturday’s announcement, she estimated that the figure could rise to 350.

GA Tiga Belas responded by saying that the layoffs complied with existing laws.

“[The claim of] some media that we unilaterally laid off 350 employees [contrary] to applicable laws is not true. We have always complied with the law in [our business] efficiency and effectiveness processes,” the company’s management said in a statement.

It had also responded to letters from ASPEK, the statement said.

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