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GPO to Eliminate Most Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Looking to eliminate a money-losing operation, the Government Printing Office plans to shutter nearly all of its remaining 15 bookstores by Sept. 30.

The closures result primarily from a decline in sales at the agency’s traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores as the public has gained more access to government information on the Internet, GPO officials said.

Since 2001, the printing agency has closed more than one-third of the 24 stores it once operated nationwide.

“We can’t afford to sustain an operation that loses money,” said GPO spokesman Andrew Sherman.

GPO, which receives no federal funds to operate the bookstores, expects to save $1.5 million in fiscal 2004 after severance costs are paid.

“What used to be the mainstay of bookstore sales was regulatory information,” Sherman noted. Now, many documents once available only in GPO’s stores, such as the Federal Register, are available for no charge on the agency’s Web site,

Joint Printing Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) praised GPO’s efforts to reduce its operating expenses.

“Instead of throwing good money after bad and wasting taxpayer resources, we did the common-sense thing and closed the bookstores,” Ney said at a May 21 press conference.

The closings will affect 46 employees, up to a third of whom are eligible for the agency’s retirement buyout program. Sherman said the remaining employees will likely be entitled to severance packages and qualify for hiring preference at other federal jobs.

GPO will maintain only one physical bookstore — in its North Capitol Street headquarters, although that shop is scheduled for renovations.

The first round of closings is scheduled to begin July 1 at the Kansas City, Mo., Portland, Ore., Seattle and New York City locations.

In August, the Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Pueblo, Colo., and Milwaukee outlets will close, followed by the Atlanta, Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., and Pittsburgh bookstores in September.

The printing agency closed its Dallas store in March and has also shuttered its Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Philadelphia and San Francisco shops, as well as its McPherson Square location in the District.

GPO’s new sales operation will more closely resemble that of, the Seattle-based Internet media store, Sherman said.

The agency will maintain its Laurel, Md., facility, now used primarily by book dealers, as its warehouse.

“The majority of our bookselling business … continues to be out of that facility,” Sherman said.

The changes reflect a continuing push by Public Printer Bruce James toward disseminating more information in an electronic format.

“We are now in a period where we need to sort out what continues to belong in print and what best belongs in information retrieval systems that allow the public to define their own information needs,” James stated in testimony provided for recent House Appropriations Committee hearings.

GPO offers access to government publications on its Web site, and other publications, such as the White House budget proposal, can be ordered from GPO’s online bookstore, Orders can also be made by phone, fax or mail.

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