Book retailing is a realm that has gained tremendous significance lately is augmenting sales to a new high. In a conversation with Abhishek Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Apeejay Oxford Bookstores we get an insight into the company’s operations and their plans to tap this boosting industry.
Neha Prashar (NP): Share with us the origin, growth and success of Oxford Bookstore? When and what inspired the company to take up franchise route for expansion?
Abhishek Kumar (AK): The story of Oxford Bookstore began over 80 years ago on Park Street, Kolkata. Initially known as Oxford Book and Stationary, it soon carved a special niche for itself in the region, dominated by Thacker & Spink and Newman's. In 1995 to commemorate its platinum anniversary the store was recreated as Oxford Bookstore – Gallery by Apeejay Surrendra Group. Then in 2002, the Oxford Bookstore was launched in Mumbai with CHA BAR for a rejuvenating pause in between discovering books. The success of Oxford can be attributed to the combination of enterprise and vision, tradition and state-of-the-art technology and the very best in books services and amenities. The unique product mix includes books, music, software, stationery, gifts and CHA BAR. Oxford Bookstore stocks an enviable collection of nearly 1000 magazines covering topics like design, culture, teens, careers, electronics, gadgets, computers, cars, music, nature and photography.
Oxford Bookstore adopted the franchise route in 2006 for rapid expansion and to gain a pan India presence.
NP: What kind of investment is required to take up Oxford Bookstore franchise in terms of money, area and time?
AK: The investment while opening up a new franchise varies as per the format and size of the store. Our various store formats are: Standard (Bookstore + Cha bar), Junior (Dedicated to children from 3- 15), Xpress (Small size store 200-300 sq. ft) and Shop-in-shop (Iinside shop).
NP: What is the eligibility criterion for selecting the right franchise partners? Is it necessary for the franchisee to have a similar background?
AK: While selecting any store location we stress on catchment, which has a mix of residential and commercial premises, and traffic flow is there may not be the high street.
Major challenge in the book industry is to get skilled manpower in books retail stores as this particular industry requires staff product training which is very important and vital. Due to scarcity of trained manpower hiring is mainly done from other non-core industry. Manpower requirement varies as per the store format and size.
NP: What is the USP, expected ROI and the break even period of your brand?
AK: Oxford Bookstore brand has an international flavour. So as we started launching our stores at various cities nationwide, we got a huge response as customers started directly getting connected to the brand. The various outlets, spread as they are all over the country, offer a vast assortment of titles along with choicest music merchandise, tasteful gift and novelty items, an innovative event space, a restful Cha Bar zone and Internet facilities.
Leveraging on relationships built over 90 years with publishing houses, our stores provide access to over 6 million titles from the USA and UK. The unique product mix includes books, music, software, stationery, gifts and CHA BAR. Oxford Bookstore stocks an enviable collection of nearly 1000 magazines covering topics like Design, Culture, Teens, Careers, Electronics, Gadgets, Computers, Cars, Music, Nature and Photography. The bookstore also offers an interesting music section along with a range of exclusive eco-friendly and new age stationary items. Today, we are present in all the metros and tier-two cities across the country and Oxford Bookstore in Kolkata is an iconic.
The expected ROI varies from format to format and the break-even period for the brand is about 28 months.
NP: How has the concept of online bookstore helped the brand to grow?
AK: Oxford Bookstore is the only completely integrated online offline bookstore in the country with access to six million titles worldwide. www.oxfordbookstore.com provides special online shopping benefits and is the only of its kind, hosted out of India. The site also gives you news of all the latest publications, provides you with in-depth reviews of books, music and features exclusive interviews with celebrity authors and hosts India’s largest online talent contest, e-Author.