Bookseller's bid to beat the competition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am

RETAILERS SELLING exactly the same products as a rival store just around the corner know all about the importance of building close customer relationships and creating an inviting environment for shoppers.

Shonee Mirchandani, the director of English-language bookseller Bookazine, said good merchandising was one of the answers, because a large percentage of sales were impulse buys.

'We highlight books through in-store block displays, posters and stickers,' she said. 'And tables arranged by theme, such as Asian interest or movie tie-ins in the run-up to the Oscars.'

Bookazine also highlights new publications with a variety of book launches, readings, wine-tastings, seminars and discussion groups.

'Recent signings that created a lot of buzz include those with Chris Patten and Simon Winchester, as well as local celebrities such as Nury Vittachi and Lorette Roberts,' she said.

The company also runs promotions in partnership with other firms or media groups, offering discounts for members or interested readers.

What makes the marketing of the chain unique is its shopping environment. Since competitors basically stock the same books and magazines, marketing is vital.

'It is very important that the shopping experience itself creates a positive impression in the customer's mind,' Ms Mirchandani said. 'Instead of following the strategy of deep discounting and prize competitions, we use our marketing budget to differentiate [ourselves] by creating an exciting environment in the design of the shop and selection of books.'

Exemplifying this, Bookazine's branch in Prince's Building has a cosy children's section with a bumper beanbag and a wide-screen TV.

There are also ongoing efforts to maintain customer loyalty by developing personalised relationships, understanding individual reading habits and recommending other books that are likely to be of interest.

Other factors taken into consideration are the need to stock critically acclaimed books and to organise seasonal promotions.

'Similar to the rest of the retail trade, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day are our peak periods,' Ms Mirchandani said. 'In addition, when there is a launch of a highly anticipated book or sequel, such as Harry Potter, peaks [occur].'