Borders and Angus & Robertson are gone, a Federal Minister has predicted they will die and the internet is stealing would-be customers.
You could list more woes. But in the face of the headwinds blowing against bricks-and-mortar booksellers, Dymocks managing director Steve Cox says the company will continue to thrive.
“All retailers are facing similar challenges, and we respond accordingly” Cox told Business Insider, explaining the company’s plan involves capitalising on its reputation to expand online, and adapting its store to fill the void left by other operators who have thrown in the towel.
And while some stores will close, the company has no plans to stop selling books the old fashioned way.
“All the big online players have a physical presence,” Cox said, citing recently-released Commonwealth Bank research showing traditional retailers were stealing back customers from online-only competitors.
“We have a real strength in our physical presence,” said Cox, who joined Dymocks a little over a year ago from David Jones.
Dymocks — which has more than 70 stores in Australia and 12 in Hong Kong — will increase the amount of editorial content available on its website, and adapt its shops to try and make them more engaging, Cox explained.
This, he said, would mean interactive in-store displays and customer service which emphasises a love of reading. As a desire for long-form content becomes the exception rather than the rule, the company needs to do all it can to get customers — especially young ones — hooked.
While he declined to providing a time frame from the online improvement, Cox said: “Work has started.”
Increased research will also dictate where stores are placed, so that they cater to core customers who will continue to buy books, even in the face of any downward trend.
“Our core customer is female, has a family, is socially aware and has a life-long love of reading,” but in a Dymocks store “you could find something for anyone,” Cox said.
There is a “science” that goes into where stores will be opened, based on an increased emphasis on customer needs and demographics. And as the challenge of online content leaves more people less likely to buy a book, Dymocks hopes its plans for more interactive stores will get people hooked.
“There is an influx of information, but now the challenge is finding quality.
When asked if he was sick of hearing about the damage the internet is doing to traditional media stakeholders, he said: “I don’t get sick of hearing it – I take it on board, and keep checking the data.”
“People forget that there are still two billion in book sales here [Australia] every year.
“The important thing for me is letting people know that there’s something to be excited about.”
Time will tell the fate of Dymocks, as it will any business. Though until then Cox at the very least leaves no doubt of his confidence for its future.
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