Advanced Marketing Services will be closing its U.K.—based Aspen Book Marketing unit later this year after Aspen failed to renew its distribution agreement with the supermarket chain Safeway Stores plc. Safeway, now in the process of looking for a new buyer, had been Aspen's sole client for books and maps. The existing contract expires June 26, after which Safeway will move its book distribution business to Cork, which also supplies books to other supermarket chains.

AMS acquired Aspen in August 2000, one of its first ventures into the U.K. market. The company had hoped to use Aspen—which had sales of $12 million at the time of the acquisition and has 300 full-time and part-time employees—as a platform for book distribution into other U.K. supermarket chains, but those plans never materialized. Since the Aspen purchase, AMS has made several other acquisitions in the U.K., including H.I. Marketing and Airlift Book Company which it bought late last year.

AMS said it will take a charge of 2 to 3 cents in the quarter ended March 31 to write off Aspen assets.